The Kinectimals video game lets players pet a virtual pet on their TV screen, but Tokyo-based software engineer Taylor Veltrop has gone one step further. By pairing a Kinect sensor, a Wiimote, a treadmill and a Nao humanoid robot together, Veltrop has cobbled together a tele-operation system that allows him to groom his real life feline friend remotely.
The system sees Veltrop controlling the Nao robot's navigation and bending and turning via the Kinect sensor and a treadmill and its arm's using the Kinect and two Wiimotes. Meanwhile, a head-mounted display (HMD) provides Veltrop with the view from Nao's eyes and a second camera mounted on top of its head. The robot is controlled over Wi-Fi and is dexterous enough to allow Veltrop to brush a cat, which is conveniently held in place by a helpful assistant.
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The system is the result of a year's work for Veltrop, who also picked up third place last year for tele-operation of a humanoid robot in a competition by Willow Garage, the company behind the PR2 robot. Veltrop now plans to hearing and speaking capabilities to the system.
As can be seen in the video, Veltrop's tele-operated Nao isn't not exactly the fastest way to groom a pet, but it does beg the question, if this is what is achievable by a hobbyist using widely available consumer electronic devices, just how long is if before we see remotely tele-operated robots facing off in the battlefield while their human controllers are safely located at a remote location?