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The All-In-One Guitar Playing Robot and Game

Robots that can play games like Guitar Hero have been around for several years. But Intel and National Instruments have created a new demo that can run everything

1 min read
Screenshot of demo
Photo: IEEE

With all the excitement surrounding the release of Guitar Hero 5 and The Beatles: Rock Band, I decided now was a good time to post a video I shot last month at National Instruments Week. In the past we’ve covered the way Guitar Hero could help amputees train brain-computer interfaces and how to turn the controllers into real musical instruments. It’s been over a year since we posted about Slashbot, a robot that could play the game.

Today’s video features another guitar-playing robot. But this one is different: the musical game (in this case, the open-source Frets on Fire clone), the vision acquisition system (that reads the notes off the screen), and the robotic control are all running off a single processor. Check it out:

This demo was a way for Intel and National Instruments to show off their new virtualization tool, which allows engineers to assign a specific task to a particular core. I thought it was a rather impressive way to show off the technology, but I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. Is this virtualization capability worthwhile?

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How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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