Science

Hobbyists Key to the Future of Robotics?

Posted 5 May 2005 at 23:03 UTC by steve Share This

A new EE Times article suggests that homebrew robot builders may be the best source of innovation for the future of robotics. As more and more large US corporations abandon long-term research and development efforts in their search for short term profits, robotics and other science research has suffered. In the case of robotics the challenge "seems to fall on the shoulders of students and hobbyists". The article mentions the DARPA Grand Challenge and other examples of the increasing reliance on hobbyists for innovation.


Not Suprised..., posted 6 May 2005 at 01:27 UTC by Cannon Fury » (Journeyer)

When it comes down to it, the developement of robots will end up the same as the development of computers. It will be the little hobbyists that will pave the way for the businesses of tomorrow, we'll build the Apple computers of the robotics world. The future of the industry lies on the shoulders of the stand-alone builders.

Who among us may lay down a gauntlet in the industry?

Go figure, posted 6 May 2005 at 12:24 UTC by Botnerd » (Master)

Its actually better because of businesses care about profits as for me and other diehard robotics hobbyists Its not about money but about what we love to do.

I agree, posted 6 May 2005 at 12:35 UTC by c6jones720 » (Master)

I agree but it seems that everybody always ends up working on the same problems. I would say that of all the other hobby robots I've seen about 80% of them are more or less the same. Most seem to be mobile trolleys that have some navigation AI but not much else. No offence to anyone that makes that sort of thing, I always used to.

I think we need to go beyond that and try to produce robots that can do more than simply randomly or programmatically wander around. Although AI still has a long way to go I think we can cut our losses and proceed with the AI levels we have. We need to produce robots that actually do something useful.

I agree, posted 6 May 2005 at 12:37 UTC by c6jones720 » (Master)

I agree but it seems that everybody always ends up working on the same problems. I would say that of all the other hobby robots I've seen about 80% of them are more or less the same. Most seem to be mobile trolleys that have some navigation AI but not much else. No offence to anyone that makes that sort of thing, I always used to.

I think we need to go beyond that and try to produce robots that can do more than simply randomly or programmatically wander around. Although AI still has a long way to go I think we can cut our losses and proceed with the AI levels we have. We need to produce robots that actually do something useful.

All it takes is a kick up the backside and some imagination. We can all do it.

Harder than we think?, posted 6 May 2005 at 15:24 UTC by ROB.T. » (Master)

True we keep seeing the same problems over and over, but its pretty hard to come up with a brand new design.

I think a lot of innovation is going to come from the hobby community, but its profitability that is going to bring robotics into the main stream.

Blessed are the Hobbyists, posted 6 May 2005 at 16:42 UTC by motters » (Master)

I think the hobbyist will be an important factor in the early development of robotics. Here in the UK there is virtually no serious robotics research as far as I can tell. We have a lot of universities with lego robots or Brooks-like insectoids, but not much else. The few people who do have advanced ideas (like Steve Grand or Colin Pillinger) simply don't get any funding.

At the moment it's only the hobbyists who have both the necessary vision and staying power to see it through. Both industry and academic research tends to be very short term, and usually focusses upon problems which are easily solved (such as obstacle avoidance with infrared sensors). The more difficult problems are actively avoided.

I've done a lot of stuff with robots and vision systems on a hobby basis, and I often think to myself that if I can do this on my own and on a very low budget, why isn't this sort of research going on in UK universities who have far bigger budgets and a massive pool of young talent?

Motters Im with you, posted 9 May 2005 at 12:37 UTC by c6jones720 » (Master)

Motters you always put it straight and to the point. Im with you 100% in the UK there seems to be no interest in robotics or engineering in general. I think people are scared of change.

I think the UK is one of the worst places for engineering and science at the moment. We hardly ever did practical robotics experiments at university even though we had the equipment, they didnt have the funding.

I used to work on bomb disposal equipment and thats all teleoperated in the UK. I suggested using AI and the bosses said no because the MoD didnt want to use something whoose actions could not be predicted. Im working with car parking machines and barriers now and I suggested using sensors for safety on the barriers. They said no because it was too dificult.

If there is a robotics revolution outside Japan its going to have to be fuelled by hobyists especially in the UK because nobody else is interested.

Lack of imagination, posted 10 May 2005 at 23:37 UTC by motters » (Master)

I'd say I've spend a large proportion of my working life struggling against the sort of obsessive conservatism and lack of ambition that you describe. Progress doesn't happen if you always choose the easiest or the most proven solution. To some extent I think this kind of attitude is a British problem. In many other countries technological change is embraced with greater enthusiasm and people are prepared to take risks where there are the potential for rewards.

The thing about robotics research is that it doesn't take a massive budget to get started. I've built quite sophisticated humanoids for only a few hundred pounds. Really what it takes is sufficient imagination and a willingness not to be put off by difficult problems.

Motters are you really a hobbyist?, posted 13 May 2005 at 15:42 UTC by ROB.T. » (Master)

Motters I‛TM]ve seen your work around, and I‛TM]ve noticed you haven‛TM]t taken much time to certify anyone beyond Rod Brooks and Dave Hrynkiw… Perhaps you‛TM]re at a different level than the rest of us(?)

What is a Hobbiest?, posted 13 May 2005 at 16:28 UTC by ROB.T. » (Master)

I'm doing some deep soul searching here. There are a lot of people who frequent this site who run University programs, competitions, and companies. At what point are you no longer a Hobbyist?

Hobbyists are the key to the future!, posted 13 May 2005 at 18:36 UTC by The Swirling Brain » (Master)

If you can figure that out, you'll have the key to the future! :-)

Hobbyists, posted 13 May 2005 at 20:07 UTC by motters » (Master)

Well, for the last seven years I've done industrial robotics but that mainly revolves around precision and synchronisation issues and there isn't a great deal of intellgence involved. The *real* work on stereo vision and humanoids has all been done in my spare time as a hobby.

Semi-pro, posted 14 May 2005 at 03:14 UTC by ROB.T. » (Master)

Mottors your appear to be semi-pro in your spare time. I have no idea what a professional would be - maybe IRobot?

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