New TurtleBot Tutorials Make Robotics and ROS More Accessible Than Ever

Follow this guide to learn ROS—and program a robot to bring you coffee

3 min read
New TurtleBot Tutorials Make Robotics and ROS More Accessible Than Ever
Image: Mark Silliman

As some of you might remember, we got one of the very first TurtleBot 2s from Clearpath Robotics. It was awesome. We were going to put together a big long series of tutorials and stuff, and we got started by explaining how to install Ubuntu and ROS, even if you know as little about either of those things as we did.

But, as awesome as it was to get a very early TurtleBot 2, we ran into a few bugs that made things like networking and navigating abnormally difficult, and to be completely honest with you, we got stuck. Since then, the TurtleBot software has matured significantly, and from the sound of things, getting your little robot to actually, you know, do stuff is way easier than it used to be.

Mark Silliman, Austin Meyers, and Melissa Eaton have posted an excellent set of beginner TurtleBot tutorials, starting from scratch and ending with (hopefully) your TurtleBot bringing you coffee that you can order with an app on your phone.

After mounting a Keurig coffee maker and K-cup holder on top of TurtleBot, we allowed any person in our office to request coffee via web app or a Google Chrome extension on their computer. When a user asked for coffee, TurtleBot autonomously traveled to the requested desk and waited. The co-worker then plugged in the Keurig and made their coffee. When our co-worker was finished they pressed a button on the back of TurtleBot and it went to the next desk or, if no one was waiting, it went back to its charging station to await the next needed caffeine fix.

From the perspective of someone interested in robotics and ROS but without any experience, trying to get a robot to do something like this isn’t just intimidating, it’s quite possibly utterly impossible. You could start by trying to slog through a bunch of documentation on ROS, but much of that assumes that you’ve got some fundamental knowledge about how robots work in both software and hardware in the first place. 

imgHey, looks like my editor was one of the ROS beginners who were able to follow the guide to get his TurtleBot up and running. He got help from his 7-year-old daughter, who  teleoperated the robot to create a map of a room using the Kinect sensor.Image: Erico Guizzo

The great thing about these new tutorials (and this was also the goal with our original TurtleBot tutorials) is that you really can just start from nothing. There are nearly 30 sections, starting with software and hardware setup, which include detailed plain language instructions, pictures, and even YouTube videos showing you what commands to enter and what information to look for.

Having step-by-step instructions to go from unboxing to coffee delivery is fantastic, but what’s just as important is that you can use these tutorials as a foundation to dream up (and code up) your own ideas. Because that’s what robots are all about, right? First coffee delivery, then the world!

If you want to give this a try, you’ll need a TurtleBot (you can likely build one for under US $1,000, or buy one from one of these distributors), some determination, and a few free weekends. Check out the entire tutorial series (and we’re hoping for more!) at the link below.

[ Learn TurtleBot and ROS ] via [ ROS.org ]

Thanks Mark!

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
DarkGray

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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