18 Feb 2004 zxcvb123   » (Observer)

Joining this site has stirred up some old memories. I had almost completely forgotten about another robotics project with which I was involved.

In the 1980's there was a robot called the Tomy Robot. It had an extendable gripping arm, a head that swiveled, and tank tracks that let it zip around a house.

My friends ripped the thing's head off and placed a camera on it. We had one of the first Picture-In-Picture TV's back then, and on the TV we could show the image from the robot's camera. Since the camera was mounted on the swivel axis, it could be rotated.

Then they tore apart the remote control that controlled the robot. They wired each of the buttons on the remote control to one of 16 opto-electronic switches. I was able to drive the on-off position of each switch on the board of switches, by sending a 16-bit word out to the parallel port connected to the board of switches. Each bit turned one switch on or off, depending on its value of 1 or 0.

Next I programmed a user interface that allowed a handicapped person to operate the robot's movement, swivel, and gripper capabilities through a graphical interface. I wrote the driver's for an infrared sensor connected to the PC, that could detect head movement (with the aid of a small piece of reflective material adhering to the user's forehead). This allowed a handicapped person to control the X, Y movement of the mouse cursor with their head. An eye blink sensor placed near the person's eye allowed them to trigger a mouse click by blinking their eye. The overall package gave the handicapped user, even if they were a quadraplegic, the ability to operate the graphical interface to the mutated Tomy robot.

In summary, a handicapped person could drive the Tomy robot around the house, see what it was seeing and even look around the room, and grab things with the gripper hand.

I remember that project with great fondness. -wendy

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