Everyone has heard about the Nintendo Wii - a gaming system that allows the user to act out particular motions (like sword fighting or tennis) with a special remote unit. Then, the system translates those real-world motions into the movement of characters on the screen.
WiiBot is the pet project of two engineers who apparently have way too much cool hardware and time on their hands. On the other hand, maybe they should be running a company that actually makes real things that work (as opposed to companies that just spit out business plans).
These two guys figure that as long as you have a Kuka KR16 industrial robot to work with, why not see if you can control it with the Wii Remote from the new Wii interactive video game?
First, you program the Kuka robot to perform the basic motions of tennis and fencing using a mouse-driven interface. Identify points in space, and the robot will follow them.
Then, you need to feed the signal from the Wii Remote to a computer that would recognize the same basic motions, and then tell the robot which motion to perform. If hacking a program to do this on your Saturday off doesn't sound like fun, you're not an engineer (judge the results for yourself in the WiiBot video).
Science fiction fans have seen this before. In Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune, members of royalty must be able to defend themselves using swords and knives. A remote-controlled fencing robot and mirror system are used by a trainer to help royal family members, like Paul Atreides, to prepare:
He [Swordmaster Gurney Halleck] gestured to the practice dummy. "Now, we'll work on your timing. Let me see you catch that thing sinister. I'll control it from over here where I can have a full view of the action. And I warn you I'll be trying new counters today."
(Read more about the fencing robot and mirror)
The fencing robot/mirror system also had higher and higher skill levels available; it could defeat even the most skilled human practitioners (unless they were prescient, of course).
Check out the prior art: the Fighting MUSA Kendo Robot from the Manufacturing & Mechatronics Lab of Seoul National University is worth a look.
Read more about WiiBot.
(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction.)
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