Posted 12 Sep 2003 at 03:23 UTC by The Swirling Brain Share This

LinuxDevices has an article about a new surveillance robot. The $30k PatrolBot runs with Embedded Linux on VersaLogic's P-III-based VSBC-8 board. PatrolBot is made by ActivMedia Robotics and comes in many configurations. Basically, you get an autonomous robot that can wander through a building and patrols better than a security guard. It can listen to speech and respond. It can find and fetch objects. It can transmit video to a surveillance monitor. It can avoid objects with its many sonar sensors. You name it. It even comes with a docking station to recharge. If it really works, a security guard for $30k seems seems like a really great deal!

Over engineered, posted 12 Sep 2003 at 06:19 UTC by motters » (Master)

Too expensive. I could build a similar robot for a fraction of the price. In fact something like a cye robot could do the same job.

Not really, posted 12 Sep 2003 at 14:09 UTC by earlwb » (Master)

Actually it has to be big enough so that it isn't easily stolen itself. Plus it has to be robust enough to withstand some vandalism too. Something you can stomp on to disable isn't going to do it. FCC and UL approvals are expensive, plus you have to be able to transmit video and sound for a decent distance too. Thus it isn't all that unreasonable cost wise. I think it is a little on the cheap side myself, maybe they are selling it at a loss to get some market share and exposure.

I also feel it needs to be somewhat menacing in appearance to serve as a good deterent too.

Packing a 12 guage magazine fed autoloader is a real plus. Unfortunately, it seems the various states all have laws against using a mechanical contrivance to trap, injure or kill criminals. We need to get the laws updated or changed.

I spoke too soon, posted 12 Sep 2003 at 14:12 UTC by earlwb » (Master)

The website finally loaded, I spoke too soon, at $30k it's a piece of junk. $30k should get a 500 pound, titanium or stainless steel chassis, wheel or tracked robot with a real sense of presence. If you kick it it'll would break your foot.

$30k is CHEAP!, posted 12 Sep 2003 at 17:33 UTC by jiggersplat » (Journeyer)

ha! you guys think $30k is a lot? i was working on a similar project when i was at general dynamics robotic systems. try over $100k for some piece of crap running with less power than my TI calculator. the thing must have weighed 400lbs, was impossible to program and broke ALL the time. and that $100k was OUR cost, nevermind what we were selling the "finished" product for.

more comments..., posted 12 Sep 2003 at 17:34 UTC by jiggersplat » (Journeyer)

something like a cye robot would NOT work. there are lots of other considerations, like obstacle avoidance, line-of-sight (cye is only 3 inches tall, how much could it see), ability to traverse obstalces, sensor payload, etc, etc.

security robots, posted 12 Sep 2003 at 17:39 UTC by jiggersplat » (Journeyer)

check out the mdars-i robot about half way down, and the mdars-e robot below it. i worked on both of those.

If I see one..., posted 12 Sep 2003 at 21:25 UTC by blueeyedpop » (Master)

If I see one, I am likely to steal it for the wheelbarrow tires.


But..., posted 12 Sep 2003 at 21:25 UTC by earlwb » (Master)

The Midar's robots are most interesting. But those are military, they have to cost millions or the military doesn't want them.

Still too expensive, posted 13 Sep 2003 at 08:14 UTC by motters » (Master)

That military AGV looked like fun. Looked like a trinocular vision system on the front for mapping the terrain ahead.

When making a bot to do a security job though you really need to think practically. For $30K you could just employ a human security guard who whould be much better at spotting and dealing with intruders. For automated solutions to work they need to be cheaper than a human doing the same job and also more reliable and easier to manage. I've worked in the automation industry for years and reliability is really a critical factor. If the thing breaks down every six months and requires complex or expensive repairs then its just not economically viable.

I would like to see people aiming to make robots a consumer comodity, affordable to the average joe on the street. At present a robot in every home may sound like a ridiculous proposition, but didn't someone once say the same thing about PCs?

Hardware is half the cost, posted 14 Sep 2003 at 06:35 UTC by rudybrian » (Master)

The Sick LMS 200 laser rangefinder (blue thingie with the opaque plastic window between the speakers) runs between $5k-$8k depending on the configuration and who you get it from. Accurate range data is critical for the localization system to work, so the bot doesn't get lost. The robotic base runs ~$8k in the configuration shown.

Conceivably all but the laser rangefinder could be hacked together from COTS components, using CARMEN (GPL) to do the localization. If only a cheaper laser rangefinder system was available...

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