CMU TeRK Project: Open Source Robots

Posted 26 Apr 2007 at 16:40 UTC by steve Share This

Yesterday CMU announced the Telepresence Robot Kit (TeRK) project. Originally developed by CMU professor Illah Nourbakhsh and funded by Google, Intel and Microsoft. The idea is to release several robot plans (called "recipes") for building simple, web-enable robots from off-the-shelf parts. They hope the sudden proliferation of web-enabled robots will generate new interest in robotics. The robot is based on the Qwerk microcontroller developed by the CMU CREATE lab and Austin-based Charmed Labs. The Qwerk is Linux-based SBC with a 200MHz ARM9 and 32MB of RAM. The board also includes a Xilinx Spartan FPGA, USB, assorted I/O and, of course, 10/100 Ethernet for net access. At $350 each, the Qwerk is a bit pricey compared to other recent Linux micros such as the $69 Atmel ATNGW100, which has similar features. On the other hand, if you plunk down the money for the Qwerk, CMU will provide a lot of ready to go software for you to use including the Qwerkbot Teleop Interface, the Robot Universal Remote (RUR), Robot Dance Studio, Qwerk Audio Player, the Express-O-Matic graphic programming tool, and, well, a lot of other stuff. All of this is Free Software licensed under the GNU GPL.

Qwerks and Terks, posted 26 Apr 2007 at 22:04 UTC by motters » (Master)

I'm using one of these at the moment, and it does seem like a pretty good system. Sure you could use other embedded computers running linux, but then you would still need a motor controller, servo controller and digital/analogue I/O board, and you'd need to write software to integrate it all that together and add a web server. This is all possible for the hardcore robot hobbyist, but I think the aim with this system is to lower the bar and make it easier for people to get into the subject - especially women.

Here's my Qwerk based telerobot

Do you have a minute about the FPGA?, posted 28 Apr 2007 at 01:09 UTC by TheDuck » (Journeyer)

That's great news! It looks like an interesting package and I'm more and more intrigued about getting one. If you have a minute for some questions: Is there a software environment where you can design and test control programs? Do you have complete control over programming the FPGA?

Your comment about women is curious, too. I imagine if more women were interested in robotics then they'd get into it. Knowing my wife and daughters I can't imagine any lowering of bars is required. Rather, I imagine women are quite wise not getting into a field where you find yourself inventing new ways to curse at inanimate pieces of metal and plastic. :) (hmmm, sort of like golf....)

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