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Kinect Revolutionizing Robotics

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the can-it-serve-as-an-emergency-floatation-device dept.

Robotics 83

HizookRobotics writes "The Bilibot Project, an open-source robot platform based on Microsoft's Kinect, was just announced by MIT researcher Garratt Gallagher on Hizook.com. Bilibot is just the first in what will likely be a torrent of robots (both hobbyist and professional) utilizing the Kinect. This sentiment was echoed in an essay by Fred Nikgohar, CEO of RoboDynamics, who believes we've reached a watershed moment in robotics enabled by cheap 3D sensing. While much of the attention for the Kinect has focused on video gaming, perhaps robotics will be its greatest beneficiary."

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BSOD - Visual Alert (2)

jweyrich (1453515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185122)

Important advice: Always put a screen on your robot!

Re:BSOD - Visual Alert (1)

lord_rob the only on (859100) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185160)

Also, be careful not to make you throw a chair to the face

Kinect is not Microsoft's invention. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185150)

Kinect was actually developed by PrimeSense.

Re:Kinect is not Microsoft's invention. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185296)

Kinect was actually developed by PrimeSense.

This is not entirely correct. One part of Kinect was licensed from PrimeSense, the range camera. Microsoft developed the software technology internally. People can argue, and do, what is the most important part, but I think it is the combination that is unique.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinect#Technology [wikipedia.org]

Re:Kinect is not Microsoft's invention. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185444)

3D vision software technology has been around for years, what it is worth here is the hardware itself. Mind you that people is only interested in the kinect hardware, not the software which is run on the XBOX. If you remember straight, hacking of kinect was fairly easy because all the processing is done in the console.

Re:Kinect is not Microsoft's invention. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35186498)

So then, you would issue a patent on this device???

Re:Kinect is not Microsoft's invention. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35186152)

Kinect was actually developed by PrimeSense.

Yeah, thank god they got it to market and sold millions or else this wouldn't have happened.

Billig (1)

DaPhil (811162) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185154)

Their about page (http://www.bilibot.com/about) claims that the name "bilibot" stems from the German word "bilig" (cheap). However, the word is actually written with two l ("billig") in German. I hope they are more thorough in their computing research...

Re:Billig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185856)

Pedantic much?

Re:Billig (1)

ocdscouter (1922930) | more than 3 years ago | (#35186934)

I've never understood why people who care about proper use of language are regarded at pedants. Obviously, this AC could be dismissed as Troll/Flamebait/etc, but I'd rather rant a bit. Why do 'nerds', for example, care about the language they program in, and then mock anyone who gives a shit about the proper use of the languages we use to communicate with other types of processors (so to speak)? When did semantics become a dirty word, and clarity in thought (and its expression) become a fool's game?

Re:Billig (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 3 years ago | (#35188386)

I've never understood why people who care about proper use of language are regarded at pedants.

Because you are? You do realize that the formalized spelling of words and grammar is only a recent development? Go read some primary source literature from only 200 to 300 years ago to see how varied even the same words were spelled by many people. As long as someone understands what is being said, it is truly pedantic to nit pick every single mistake.

Re:Billig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35186970)

Googol seems to be doing ok with their idea.

Misspellings can be trademarked (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35186990)

And companies routinely change the spelling of common words to make them more distinctive and trademarkable. For example, Lilliput has three L's, while liliputing.com has only two.

This is what all companies need to do (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185184)

I've thought for a long time that companies have been missing out on the prospect of just giving people toys to play with. All these tablets, portable gaming systems, calculators, kinect, etc. would be so much more useful if they were opened up and just plain allowed to let people play and/or tinker with them but the companies involved have been oddly non-forthcoming in this regard. It's like how with basic legos (yes, legoS!) you can build whatever you want but with the trend towards highly specific, pre-determined builds it's just so limiting. One (ridiculously expensive) thing vs. almost unlimited possibilities, which would you rather have?

Re:This is what all companies need to do (2)

jweyrich (1453515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185216)

That's the most important principle of open source.

Re:This is what all companies need to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35187086)

I thought the most important principle of open source was men having sex with men. Has Richard Stallman been lying to me?

Re:This is what all companies need to do (-1, Troll)

burisch_research (1095299) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185224)

... like how with basic Lego (yes, Lego! ) you can build ...

FTFY

Re:This is what all companies need to do (0, Troll)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185258)

Damn fucking straight. Lego is the brand name. A Lego block is the item, Lego blocks is the pluralisation of said item.

Learn English Americans!

Re:This is what all companies need to do (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185364)

Damn fucking straight. Lego is the brand name. A Lego block is the item, Lego blocks is the pluralisation of said item.

Learn English Americans!

Learn punctuation, everybody!

Re:This is what all companies need to do (1)

internettoughguy (1478741) | more than 3 years ago | (#35189942)

Learn English Americans!

Yeah, those damn uneducated Anglo-Americans.

Re:This is what all companies need to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185944)

To be fair, there are some very good reasons why this could not be the case. Calculators selling in large volume will use custom ASIC chips that are specialised to that one purpose. Even the LCD displays will be custom made ( I've designed a few myself ) and not a great use elsewhere.

It's when devices are made in low volume or are developed quickly for a new market that you get technology inside that can be re-purposed. I remember hacking an ethernet print server years ago - it was just a box with a PC104 format x86 motherboard inside - that ended up in a robot platform. You wont find that inside a modern day router :o)

I'm a great fan of hacking my hardware - wont buy apple for that reason - but it's not always intentional that stuff cannot be opened and re-purposed.

Re:This is what all companies need to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35197734)

> t's like how with basic legos (yes, legoS!)

No, Lego. Who the hell pluralises Lego like that? Do you order a glass of waters and and make castles out of sands as well?

I'm confused (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185186)

I thought Slashdot consensus was that Kinect brought no innovation of interest, just a bad Wii copy.

Re:I'm confused (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185308)

No,no, no! MS brings no innovation. Kinect is a cool product, but you have to be careful and not mention it in the same sentence as MS or you get cognitive dissonance-induced universal explosion. Or just an angry /. crowd, whichever is worse.

Kinect is a cool product (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185498)

Is that why Microsoft is doing everything they can to keep it locked down?

Re:Kinect is a cool product (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 3 years ago | (#35188400)

Sure as long as you pretend this story [slashdot.org] doesn't exist.

Nokia + Kinect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185238)

Have you heard the latest product of the Nokia-Microsoft lovefest?

Nokia + Kinect = noKinection

Re:Nokia + Kinect (1)

M8e (1008767) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185514)

NoKinect

Kinecting People

There's a reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185264)

If you're going to engineer a product to have decent specifications, you'll have to spend a decent amount of money. The kinect, while a great purchase I've made, is never going to be comparable to a $10k time-of-flight camera of the same resolution, in terms of accuracy.

This is a consumer device foremost, so I hate when people come out with these silly deluded remarks about it revolutionising the professional robotics and engineering spheres. The research community perhaps, as we've seen from Oliver Kreylos' interest.

At the end of the day... nice product, but don't believe the 'revolutionary' hype.

How is this revolutionary? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185370)

How does kinect make a revolutionary change in robotics. All of the technology in kinect has been available for a long time and in use in many fields. What kinect does is makes it available to the general public at a low price point. Surely MIT isn't implying that Microsoft created a whole new technology that they or the rest of academia hadn't already come up with? No, instead, what Microsoft did, is what they always do -- they packaged existing technologies together. There is nothing wrong with that, it's just not revolutionary.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

Qlither (1614211) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185526)

<quote><p>makes it available to the general public at a low price point. </p></quote>

Point me to the item that does what the Kinect does, with the simplicity and cheapness of that Kinect. Cheapness, and how easy it is to use can be a game changer in any market.

On the hardware side, it is nothing MAJOR, such as an easy universal robotic language(which everyone uses) would be. However, it does mean more interactive robots that can navigate and recognise objects better. It will add all that, at a dirt cheap price and the implementation of it is only getting easier.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185646)

<quote><p>makes it available to the general public at a low price point. </p></quote>

Point me to the item that does what the Kinect does, with the simplicity and cheapness of that Kinect. Cheapness, and how easy it is to use can be a game changer in any market.

On the hardware side, it is nothing MAJOR, such as an easy universal robotic language(which everyone uses) would be. However, it does mean more interactive robots that can navigate and recognise objects better. It will add all that, at a dirt cheap price and the implementation of it is only getting easier.

Cheapness and how easy it is may be a game changer in the consumer market, that's not even accurate here. What are you going to do buy a 360 and kinect and stick it in your robot? That's not a cheap solution. What makes the Kinect work is not the hardware, but the software behind it. Cheap digital hardware has been available for a long time. Japan has produced robots that "see" and "navigate" and adapt for quite some time now. It's true they aren't cheap, but sticking a kinect in one of them won't change the price point as that is such a small part of the price.

If you are going to use the kinect for robotics, the hardware cost of something other than the kinect unit is not the obstacle. Even with the kinect unit, hardware is not the problem. Developing the software to make your robot do what you want it to is the hard part. Making the software be able to adapt to unplanned situations is even more difficult. The kinect doesn't provide any of that.

Don't get me wrong, having a game console use software that can figure out what my hands and/or feet are doing is impressive, but in terms of revolutionizing robotics, it doesn't. At best it might be evolutionary, but definitely not revolutionary.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (2)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185926)

The Kinect is a simple, convient package that they've figured out how to use the input from to work into all of the existing algorithms. And it's at a cheap enough price point that you don't see it as a hurdle.

If you wanted to, you could produce an IR emitter and hack a web cam into an IR web cam. Add in microphones and a color web cam. So it isn't the technology that is revolutionary. It isn't the software because they are just using the hardware and running the input into existing robot software.

It's the same thing with the Wii-mote. It isn't that you couldn't do it for youself, but it's become a cheap, off-the-shelf solution. What that means is that it's at a price point that you don't fret over spending it and it's been tested by the manufacturer, so you can get it fixed if it isn't working right. All of this lead to an explosion of "wouldn't it be cool if" and then people doing it. And that's where the revolution is.....people stop worrying about the how and start thinking about the what.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35188586)

Your comment displays your ignorance about how the Kinect works. All of the open-source projects using it connect it directly to a computer because it has a standard USB interface.

>Cheap digital hardware has been available for a long time.

You have absolutely NO idea what you are talking about. Show me a system that has the fidelity of the Kinect at a price point in even the same order of magnitude.

>If you are going to use the kinect for robotics, the hardware cost of something other than the kinect unit is not the obstacle.

If you hare a hobbyist, the costs most certainly ARE important. And guess what, a huge amount of important development happens with hobbyists. Ever heard of a little operating system called Linux?

Re:How is this revolutionary? (5, Interesting)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185590)

It's revolutionary because prior to the launch of the Kinect, if you wanted both visual input and a depth map on a robot, you had to spend hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars on LIDAR sensors, which are fussy pieces of equipment at the best of times. Within its design range, Kinect is as accurate as any LIDAR sensor, much more reliable, and waaaaay cheaper. For this reason, a lot of robot designers don't bother with LIDAR, which means you have to estimate distance and range with GPS, direct image data, or a host of other not-quite-as-accurate means. Not to mention it handles skeletal tracking, gesture recognition and other unpleasant programming tasks itself, leaving the robot designer free to do other things.

Kinect really has kind of changed the game overnight. People are very excited about being able to equip accurate depth sensors on all kinds of robots that they wouldn't have bothered with before. Even if no "new" innovations were to ever appear from Kinect, the increase in accuracy of old standbys like manipulator arms will be tremendous now that they can have depth maps. I'm at Cornell at the moment, and many of the grad students in robotics already have Kinect-based projects well underway, and even in the undergrad robot learning classes (where you typically do one semester-long project) the professor is pushing Kinect as an option.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185724)

It's revolutionary because prior to the launch of the Kinect, if you wanted both visual input and a depth map on a robot, you had to spend hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars on LIDAR sensors, which are fussy pieces of equipment at the best of times. Within its design range, Kinect is as accurate as any LIDAR sensor, much more reliable, and waaaaay cheaper. For this reason, a lot of robot designers don't bother with LIDAR, which means you have to estimate distance and range with GPS, direct image data, or a host of other not-quite-as-accurate means. Not to mention it handles skeletal tracking, gesture recognition and other unpleasant programming tasks itself, leaving the robot designer free to do other things.

Kinect really has kind of changed the game overnight. People are very excited about being able to equip accurate depth sensors on all kinds of robots that they wouldn't have bothered with before. Even if no "new" innovations were to ever appear from Kinect, the increase in accuracy of old standbys like manipulator arms will be tremendous now that they can have depth maps. I'm at Cornell at the moment, and many of the grad students in robotics already have Kinect-based projects well underway, and even in the undergrad robot learning classes (where you typically do one semester-long project) the professor is pushing Kinect as an option.

But even as you mention, the only "revolutionary" part is the price point. Kinect isn't allowing something new to happen, only what has been happening to occur at a cheaper point. The first Amanda Radar Range was revolutionary. The $89 2011 model isn't. It's just cheaper.

I am not doubting that the Kinect is changing the game. I just question whether it is revolutionary or not.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

urusan (1755332) | more than 3 years ago | (#35186524)

It's revolutionary in the sense of "causing a revolution".

The ongoing Egyptian revolution has thus far consisted of popular protests and a bloodless military coup, both well worn political strategies. Yet these events are revolutionary for Egypt. Things will be different in Egypt in the future.

Wouldn't you say that people involved in sparking and carrying out the revolution were revolutionary? If a new technology came on the scene and caused the revolution, wouldn't it be a revolutionary technology?

In fact, isn't this the whole point of the word "revolutionary"? If a "revolutionary" new technology doesn't cause a revolution then was it really revolutionary at all? Maybe you're thinking of the word novel instead? You've made a good argument that the Kinect isn't novel.

In any case, if the Kinect is causing a robotics revolution then I'd say it's revolutionary regardless of the reason it is causing the revolution.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35186692)

It's revolutionary in the sense of "causing a revolution".

The ongoing Egyptian revolution has thus far consisted of popular protests and a bloodless military coup, both well worn political strategies. Yet these events are revolutionary for Egypt. Things will be different in Egypt in the future.

Wouldn't you say that people involved in sparking and carrying out the revolution were revolutionary? If a new technology came on the scene and caused the revolution, wouldn't it be a revolutionary technology?

In fact, isn't this the whole point of the word "revolutionary"? If a "revolutionary" new technology doesn't cause a revolution then was it really revolutionary at all? Maybe you're thinking of the word novel instead? You've made a good argument that the Kinect isn't novel.

In any case, if the Kinect is causing a robotics revolution then I'd say it's revolutionary regardless of the reason it is causing the revolution.

As I stated in a previous post, the actual definition for revolutionary, when used as an adjective is "something that has a major, sudden impact on society or on some aspect of human endeavour." What is going on in Egypt meets that definition. The kinect technology does not, at least not yet.

Many new technologies come on the scene and have failed miserably. Because of that they are not revolutionary. It is not that some technology is new and has the potential to be revolutionary that makes it revolutionary. It is only in hindsight that a product or technology can be determined to be revolutionary because it is only then that the impact on society or human endeavour can be seen.

I'll give a concrete example. The Jarvik 7 artificial heart was an amazing piece of technology, however it did not revolutionize how we treat heart attacks or heart transplants. As amazing as it was, it failed the test of being a "major" impact on society or human endeavour. This does nothing to diminish what it was and did.

Likewise, the kinect is a great piece of technology. So far, however, it has demonstratively lowered the price point, but has yet to demonstrate a lasting major impact or change. As such, at this point, the best that can be said about the kinect is that it has the "potential" to be revolutionary in the field of robotics, not that it "is" revolutionary or even revolutionizing the field of robotics.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 3 years ago | (#35187460)

You're missing the point. The "revolution" is in market penetration and ubiquitousness. It doesn't require that similar technology has never been seen before. Your microwave oven at $2,000 in 1% of households is cool technology but hardly a revolution. At $89 and in nearly all households, it clearly is.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35187838)

You're missing the point. The "revolution" is in market penetration and ubiquitousness. It doesn't require that similar technology has never been seen before. Your microwave oven at $2,000 in 1% of households is cool technology but hardly a revolution. At $89 and in nearly all households, it clearly is.

If something to be revolutionary requires market penetration, the kinect isn't revolutionary because it holds a very small percentage of the market. We are talking about revolutionary technology, however and the Amanda Range did turn out to be revolutionary, it change society. The main use of the kinect, right now at this moment, is not robotics but gaming. It is not revolutionary (although it is impressive). If and when it makes a difference in society which is what the definition of revolutionary means, when used as an adjective, it will be revolutionary. But, most likely not because it was a cool input device for a game console.

As many have posted, it is being used in robotic research right now. It has the potential to revolutionize that field. It just hasn't had time to do that, yet.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35188674)

If something to be revolutionary requires market penetration, the kinect isn't revolutionary because it holds a very small percentage of the market.

Are you kidding me? Do you even read the news? There have been 8-million of the things sold [techcrunch.com] . It holds practically ALL of the market for devices of its kind. You must either be completely ignorant of the situation, or are advocating your position because you don't like the Kinect and/or Microsoft.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (2)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35188882)

the kinect isn't revolutionary because it holds a very small percentage of the market.

What market? I don't know a robotics lab without at least a couple kinects, or a robotics hobbyist, who doesn't have one or isn't planning to get one.

As many have posted, it is being used in robotic research right now. It has the potential to revolutionize that field. It just hasn't had time to do that, yet.

I do robotics research, and I can uneqivocally tell you it has already changed the course of robotics in a way we never thought possible. On of the biggest problems in robotics, and even in computer science in general, is reproducibility. Every lab has their own sensors, their own robot platforms, and their own software to run their robots. If I develop an algorithm for detecting pole features in my lab, there's no guarantee you can get it to work on your robot without a lot of work, if at all.

ROS is one part of the equation, as it provides a common software basis for robotics development. This is great, and in itself is revolutionary, but we're still not there unless labs can share a common sensor to capture data with. The kinect is this sensor, and it has allowed robotics researches to develop algorithms, publish them, and reproduce them in a way never before seen in robotics.

Even further, hobbyists can download the very same cutting-edge algorithms being developed in universities and use them on their robots. Maybe they can even improve them! The Kinect sensor, along with ROS, is taking robotics development out of the universities and putting it into the hands of actual users. This is not a small feat, and I feel like you're marginalizing it without really understanding what the implications are.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35189030)

So is it the kinect that you are claiming is revolutionary or the software or what? Don't get me wrong, it is very useful in your field, but are you ready to state that it is revolutionary -- that it will change robotics forever? The kinect is less than six months old. Isn't it a bit early to make that claim?

I am not trying to marginalize anything. If anything, I am trying to do just the opposite. As you are well aware, robotics is a complicated thing. Saying a a new device, being put to use for something other than what it was designed, is revolutionary when it has only been available for a few months seems to be stretching it. What happens if it turns out that the kinect has design problems that don't show up for the first few months? What if there is a show stopper (like those damn capacitors on ASUS motherboards that leaked after 9 months)? Three or four months is an awfully short period of time to say that the device has changed robotics forever.

I do believe that the kinect will probably be revolutionary. That it will change things forever. But for it to be declared revolutionary right now, means, by definition, that it has changed things forever.

A different example may help explain why I am cautios. Back when the Prius was first introduced it, too, was called revolutionary. It was going to change automobiles forever. A few other companies made hybrids, but for the most part, they didn't make the change they were supposed to. But, six months after the Prius was introduced, it was thought to be revolutionary.

The kinect is in a similar situation. It has great potential to be revolutionary. It most likely will be, but at only a few months in, it really is hard to make the claim that it has forever changed robotics. This is not to diminish what it can do or what knowledgeable people with it may be able to make it do, but until we are done talking about what it can do and show that it actually has done, it hasn't changed the face of robotics.

Until that point, it only has the potential to be revolutionary.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

HizookRobotics (1722346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35186858)

Spot on. The truth is... if you already know ROS (Robot Operating System), installing and configuring a Kinect literally takes all of 15 minutes -- half of which is (currently) compiling a PCL (Point Cloud Library) overlay. Add another hour, and you can be tracking ARtags (like QRcodes) in 3D space without any calibration -- see video [youtube.com] . It's a combination between Kinect hardware and open-source software (openni / ROS) that are creating a revolution.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#35189338)

I'm at Cornell at the moment, and many of the grad students in robotics already have Kinect-based projects well underway, and even in the undergrad robot learning classes (where you typically do one semester-long project) the professor is pushing Kinect as an option.

While I was at university 2 years ago many of the grad students in robotics already had Kinect-based projects well underway. The only difference is they used their own cameras and matlab to do depth calculation. This isn't anything new. It's not even remotely difficult to accomplish. The only thing revolutionary about it is that there is now an API and an off the shelf component that cuts this portion of the robot from 4-5 weeks down to 1 week.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (3, Insightful)

Orne (144925) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185638)

Yes, and the combustion engine automobile was invented in 1862, but wasn't available to the general public at a low price point until 1903. Do we remember Lenoir, or Carhart, or the Duryea brothers? No, we remember Ford, who built the assembly line process that standardized and cheapened the production of automobiles.

The robotics field needs this jump to standardization of components, APIs and functionality. Yes, academia is coming up with designs all of the time, but each one is custom hardware & software, akin to Professor Carhart's steam-powered automobile in 1871. After that, it needs to move into the consumer markets, where the masses can tinker, hack and tweak the designs to add functionality, and truly innovate.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185696)

Carhart.... makes good overalls.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185972)

Actually, we remember a Karl Benz, who actually built the first automobile, and his adventurous wife, who drove it for over 100km to visit her mother. Incidentally, the small company he founded to make and sell automobiles is still widely recognized, possibly more than that of Mr. Ford.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185706)

And what is so magical (and locked in) about this technology that the MAKER movement won't just take and make parts of open source robot projects?

1 million units + Microsoft fees VS
1 million units built on Open Source

If you are going to make and sell a 'consumer robot' - which cost basis are you gonna want?

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

Nailer235 (1822054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185834)

Would you call the iPod revolutionary? Surely it wasn't the first digital music player to have existed. This is revolutionary precisely because of the price point. The technology has existed, but it hasn't been readily available to the masses. Now that it's available the pool of people that may innovate upon it has expanded enormously.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185958)

Actually, the iPod was a revolutionary because it took disparate technologies and put them together in a new way to produce a new product. The kinect, from a gaming perspective might be revolutionary, but from a robotics perspective is just a consumerized version of what already was in the robotics field. Sure it is at a cheaper price point, and that may benefit research, but that doesn't revolutionize the robotics industry.

Do you really believe that the makers of industrial robots are going to stick kinects on all of their robots? Do you really believe that the military will use kinects as the brains of their drones? Do you really believe that future cars will have a kinect sitting in the grill for accident avoidance? Kinects provide a way to do rapid development, but it is not a robust enough or harden enough for other than consumer applications.

Now, one may argue that it will be hardened and it will be improved, but what that actually means is that different software will be developed to control it, which at that point, it no longer is a kinect.

Years ago, Lego came out with their Mindstorm robotics kit. It used a lot of the same technology that was being used in real robotic research at the time. Nobody claimed it was revolutionary. It was useful for turning kids on to robotics and computers. It was useful in the laboratory for prototyping things, but nobody actually developed a robot for outside the lab that was powered by Mindstorm. Likewise, the kinect may turn people onto robotics. I am sure it will be useful in the lab to prototype things, but actually being integrated, as is, into a product? No, that won't happen.

Again, using the military or manufacturing robots as an example, the cost of the sensor being a $100 or $1000 is not the issue. It is the underlying software that is the expensive part. The kinect provides the cheap hardware sensor. It does not nor cannot provide the underlying software that is specific to the task at hand.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

urusan (1755332) | more than 3 years ago | (#35186640)

What's wrong with revolutionizing consumer applications?

A Kinect may not be good enough for the applications you mention, but that doesn't mean they're insufficient for all applications. Who knows what kind of innovative low cost applications will emerge from this? I have a good friend in robotics that is doing his thesis using the Kinect and what he's working on has some interesting commercial potential (though of course I can't say any more without giving away my friend's idea).

Also, you say that improved future versions would "no longer be a kinect". While that may be strictly true, it's a lot like saying that future portable media players would no longer be an iPod (and therefore the iPod isn't revolutionary). Clearly it was revolutionary because it was the first one. The same applies to the Kinect. Maybe we'll generically call them robotic vision modules or something, but if the Kinect started the RVM trend then it will be just as revolutionary as the iPod.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35186710)

There is nothing wrong with revolutionizing consumer applications, however, the article stated that it was revolutionizing robotics, not consumer applications. Even your own questions in your post about who knows what will emerge from this, point to the fact that it is not revolutionizing anything but does have the potential to revolutionize. At this point in the development, it is too soon to tell if it is truly revolutionary or not. I do agree, it has the potential to be so, it just hasn't done it yet.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

urusan (1755332) | more than 3 years ago | (#35187310)

There is nothing wrong with revolutionizing consumer applications, however, the article stated that it was revolutionizing robotics, not consumer applications.

Make that consumer applications...of robotics.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (2)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35187224)

Do you really believe that future cars will have a kinect sitting in the grill for accident avoidance?

Actually they're using sensors from Velodyne, which are doing to LIDARs what the Kinect is doing to 3D sensors. It used to be that you needed an array of 2D LIDARS [zdnet.be] to create a 3D image. These could cost upwards of $100,000, where prone to failure, time consuming to create, and one of a kind. Then came Velodyne [velodyne.com] with their $70,000 3D LIDAR now being used on any serious autonomous vehicle. Of all the cars that finished the DARPA urban challenge, only one didn't use a Velodyne. Even Google's autonomous car [radioreference.com] has one. Now Velodyne released a new model for $20,000 the size of a coffee mug.

Yes in 2005 we could create a 3D image using lidars. That was 5 years ago, and at the time we couldn't get a car to drive through the desert. Now, because of Velodyne and the ubiquity of their sensors, cars are driving themselves through crowded streets.

Was the Velodyne revolutionary? Absolutely. Was it brand new? No, we had 3D sensors on our cars before. But it was smaller, cheaper, and easier to integrate, which is exactly what the kinect is.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35187388)

I agree the Velodyne was revolutionary, but will the kinect, as a device, be used for these purposes or will something researchers learned from using a kinect in research be the device? If it will come from the research, then if it is determined that a kinect is revolutionary, it will be revolutionary for robotic research, not robotics.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35188494)

You are being purposely obtuse. If you were to take literally 30 seconds to google for kinect projects that are already out there, you would see that it already IS revolutionizing the robotics field simply by making it easy enough for a huge number of open-source hackers to make interesting robotics projects with it. Many of the people involved weren't part of the robotics scene before it came along. Basically, it took a research field and made it an every-day tinkerer field by making the hardware affordable. I find it pretty revelatory about your biases that you are willing to say the iPod was revolutionary but the Kinect isn't. Basically, I think you don't want to acknowledge that it's having a big impact because you don't like the company that makes it.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (3, Insightful)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185984)

I am not doubting that the Kinect is changing the game. I just question whether it is revolutionary or not.

Kinect is changing the game but it's not revolutionary? What's your definition of a revolution then? Before the kinect, it cost me close to $10,000 [acroname.com] for a good 3d point cloud data. If I had more room on my robot, I might put a Hokuyo LIDAR [acroname.com] on a pivot but that still put me back 6 grand. Today I use industrial sensors from IFM [ifm.com] , re-purposed for Robotics. They cost about $1500, and only provide 50x64 pixels of range data, as compared to the Kinect's 320x240.

So the cheapest feasible sensor I can buy costs $1500. So here comes Microsoft. They're selling a sensors 10 times cheaper with 24 time the resolution. Now any old schmuck can buy this and test their idea for a new image segmentation algorithm. This has NEVER been possible before.

So yeah, Kinect is changing the game. That's the definition of a revolution. Just because it was done in a lab before by Ph.D.s after 10s of thousands of dollars of time, effort, and equipment doesn't diminish it. If a company started selling robot cars to the public, that would be revolutionary too, even though we can do that in the lab (for $1,000,000+).

And Microsoft can't get all the credit; none of this would be possible without ROS [ros.org] and the amazing Point Cloud Library [ros.org] . This is a second component of the kinect revolution, which, in itself is revolutionary.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35186448)

Everybody keeps saying this is revolutionary because of cost. So by that definition, a Yugo is revolutionary. The actual definition for revolutionary, when used as an adjective is "something that has a major, sudden impact on society or on some aspect of human endeavour." I do not think the kinect has met that requirement. It might someday, but in terms of robotics, the kinect has not had a sudden impact on society. In terms of human endeavour, it is too soon to determine whether it has made a sudden impact.

So, far, it has definitely lowered the entry cost into one part of the equation for robotics. But unless you are in marketing, the only way to tell if something is revolutionary or not is after the fact.

Just changing the game does not make something revolutionary. How society is changed makes something revolutionary.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35186784)

So by that definition, a Yugo is revolutionary.

Yugo didn't decrease the cost of an automobile 10 fold while simultaneously increasing the quality. It isn't JUST that the Kinect is so cheap. I can buy an sharp IR range finder for $15, 10 times cheaper than even the Kinect. But in terms of resolution, it's not 24 times better, like the Kinect is compared to the IFM sensors I'm currently using. If Yugo cost $300 and got 100mpg, then we'd be talking about revolutionary.

A perfect example of this happening before is sitting right in front of you. Computers used to take up entire rooms. These had niche application in business, government, and academia, but the computer revolution didn't happen until they were cheap enough for anyone to afford. Not only that but as they became cheaper they also became better!

In terms of your definition, Kinect meets this perfectly. It has had a major sudden aspect on an aspect of human endeavor, specifically robotics. Society has changed in that anyone can now afford to integrate what used to be expensive data into their robotics project. It's even further revolutionizing academic research, which you claim has been doing this all along, and therefore should be no big deal. We now all have the same sensors. I can develop an algorithm in my lab, publish it on the internet, and anyone in another research lab can download it and use it without worrying about configuration, compatibility, differences between sensors. Not only that, any hobbyist can download my state of the art algorithm and use it on their personal robotics project. This isn't something that might happen one day, it's . [ros.org]

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

John3 (85454) | more than 3 years ago | (#35187538)

A Yugo was not a better car at a cheaper price, it was a poor quality vehicle at a cheaper price. "You get what you pay for" applied to the Yugo, but Kinect provides more accurate 3D sensors at a cheaper price. So the Yugo is not a very good comparison.

However, I do agree that to truly determine how "revolutionary" this will turn out is something that we won't know until a year or two from now.

Re:How is this revolutionary? (1)

ChatHuant (801522) | more than 3 years ago | (#35189882)

How does kinect make a revolutionary change in robotics.

Let me point you to this book [amazon.com] . It describes what's known as disruptive technologies [wikipedia.org] . Here's a significant quote:

Generally, disruptive innovations were technologically straightforward, consisting of off-the-shelf components put together in a product architecture that was often simpler than prior approaches. They offered less of what customers in established markets wanted and so could rarely be initially employed there. They offered a different package of attributes valued only in emerging markets remote from, and unimportant to, the mainstream

The Kinect seems to be a perfect example of a disruptive technology. It offers a simple and very cheap solution to issues that already had established solutions. Even if it weren't as powerful as existing sensors, the low price, simplicity of use and easy availability opens a wide variety of areas where previous solutions couldn't be used.Check out some of the other examples of disruptive technologies, and the way they redefined the market, and often ended up replacing the existing established solutions. I think the Kinect will get better and end up becoming the reigning technology except for very specialized niches. And as such, it is indeed revolutionary.

it can pick your pocket & you feel almost noth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185482)

standard equipment for these times? not much nutritional value? real life is becoming much more challenging/interesting/promising?

When the microsft car comes out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185504)

This could be a great thing for cars all around with the radar they have (parking sensors) and a kinect device on all sides. Safety in cars could really become very safe as the car can find other objects in space mount that with a system that could be set to avoid things.

Just an idea

I, for one... (1)

geobeck (924637) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185522)

I, for one, welcome our cheap, 3D-sensing, X-Box playing, Johnny 5-worshiping overlords.

This is not the way to go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185556)

Why not build an open-source kinect instead???

Re:This is not the way to go (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185822)

Why not build an open-source kinect instead???

Because that would never even begin to approach the economies of scale present in something mass-market like Microsoft's sensor widget. Or are you also arguing that "the way to go" would involve avoiding commercially manufactured mircroprocessors, too? Use the mass market leverage, and get on with the projects, already. Yeeesh.

Re:This is not the way to go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35185916)

But but but, it's just a highly overpriced structured light box!!! :P
And besides, the Arduino seems to be doing just fine with commercial class competition. Where there's a will there's a way.

Not a long term solution for mobile robotics (3, Insightful)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35185932)

I love the kinect; I've done some great stuff in my robotics research with it already. It's a great sensor for testing out algorithms because of the high definition of the data, but it's next to useless as a long term solution for mobile robotics due to the nature of structure light sensors; the dot pattern projected by the IR camera can be easily interfered with by other kinects.

While there has been one example of two cameras working orthogonally, I can't see it expanding much more beyond that. To use more than a couple, you'd have to time the sensors to work together, or something more ingenious. Regardless, right now they're great in the lab, but the state of mobile robotics is still such that good sensors cost >$10,000.

Re:Not a long term solution for mobile robotics (2)

HizookRobotics (1722346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35186608)

There is certainly some truth to what you say. However, there are a number of other competing technologies (see overview here [hizook.com] and here [hizook.com] ) such as time-of-flight (like the SR4000), textured stereo (like the PR2's sensor), or even just stereo cameras or structure from motion. The fact remains... the Kinect may have opened the floodgates. It proves that there is a market that it can benefit from economies of scale -- and it's not just for robotics.

It is important to note that almost every robotics lab in the country (that I know) either has a Kinect or plans to buy one. Hopefully the feature set will continue to improve (eg. outdoor operation, multiple sensors in the same scene, etc), either through improvements in structured light depth sensing, or buy adopting alternative technologies. Either way, our lab [healthcare-robotics.com] now uses one on each of our (indoor) robots, and it works better than any other (expensive) sensor we've used to date.

Re:Not a long term solution for mobile robotics (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35187016)

First, I enjoy following your blog immensely. You always bring new stuff to my attention, and I appreciate that.

You are correct, even my lab bought Kinects as soon as we could. Actually, I personally bought one first, and after I showed my advisor what I was doing, he went and bought some more immediately.

I think the main value of the Kinect is in standardization. DARPA sees standardization as a problem for robotic manipulator research, which is why they're providing a standard base for their ARM competition. I see the same problem in sensing, where every lab has their own sensor suite. If lab1 comes up with a great algorithm for mapping, but it requires special data as input, lab2 can't replicate lab1's work without spending possibly upwards of $10,000. Now everyone has the same sensor, we have the same software, and I can download another lab's research and have it working on my robot in an hour. This is amazing, and unprecedented. ROS did it with software, and now Kinect is doing it with hardware.

I think for the near and intermediate future, the Kinect will maintain its utility, as robots are nowhere near ubiquity. A Kinect is safe for now on your health care robot, because there's probably ever going to be only one in a room at a time. This is the way I see things panning out: Kinect makes robots cheaper and more useful, so they find their way out of academia into industry and the home. As the market for robots grows, current sensor manufacturers increase production, R&D, etc. to meet demand. When the day comes that you need two health care robots in the hospital, the swissranger or its offspring might cost $500.

At any rate, it's an exciting time to be developing robots.

Re:Not a long term solution for mobile robotics (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | more than 3 years ago | (#35188922)

You can have two of them working together by using polarized filters.

Re:Not a long term solution for mobile robotics (1)

t0rc (788914) | more than 3 years ago | (#35189144)

I can think of numerous applications which would make a revolutoinary product and only require one of these devices. The primary one being an intelligent vacuum which can actively avoid obsticales, empty its own waste bin, and recharge itself. Now that there are also 10+ million of these devices out there, and a large number of them are being used for robotics hobbiest/engineers/etc, and are actively working on resolving this issue. I suspect the kinect 2 or some other future product will have a genuine solution to this shortcoming. In the meantime, i am eagerly awaiting my robotic vacuum cleaner.

Re:Not a long term solution for mobile robotics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35196758)

Oh - wow so there is something non-ideal about a technolgy that has just moved from the lab to the consumer space? Really that must be a disaster. The non-ideal part will surely doom us to suffer its very specific shortcommings forever. Oh - wait, maybe someone will notice how amazingly helpful 3-d vision is for a robot and improve on the kinect.
Yes a better alternative would be use superior $10k+ sensors because the only problems worth solving are worth a $10k sensor.

Or you could just use different IR bands, or time division multiplexing or master-slave with another bot or something else based on the kinetic technology....

Unfortunately... (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 3 years ago | (#35186936)

due to the nature of the Kinect sensor, only one robot can look at the same object at the same time, or they will both be effectively blind.

Whoa... (1)

Yaldabaoth (649550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35187140)

This and the "Microsoft sits down with Windows 7 Phone Jailbreakers" article make two positive articles about Microsoft in one day. Did I accidentally fall through a wormhole and end up in backwards land? Next you'll be telling me Linux will be the core of Windows 8 and Bill Gates thinks vaccines cause autism.

Re:Whoa... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35187352)

Although they both did come on a saturday morning, a slow time for /.

Best to minimize the impact.

Robotics, what about rehabilitation? (2)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35187198)

Physical rehabilitation at home, where the machine can truly tell if your doing your exercise correctly?

This device has so many uses we have only begun to scratch the surface.

My opinion, one of the most important innovations available to the public for working with computers/etc since the mouse. Microsoft could have really screwed this up but they really hit a homerun. While it may not pan out for as well as they want for its original purchase the ideas it sparks will show its true worth. When I played with one it was the first time I had the feeling that the future really is getting closer.

Whoa! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35187412)

I can torrent a robot now?

What a coincidence (1)

ecorona (953223) | more than 3 years ago | (#35187634)

I'm starting a new robotics project. I already have my base built but I'm having trouble interfacing the joystick currently set up to control the base with a computer, if anyone has any expertise on this, I'd appreciate some advice.

Vaporstory (1)

qmaqdk (522323) | more than 3 years ago | (#35188854)

There's a bit of a gap between the headline stating that Kinect is "revolutionizing robotics" and the article stating that the project has been "announced" and that there "will likely be a torrent of robots".

We'll see. In the mean time I will be revolutionizing the Internet with an idea that I will announce in the near future.

The article seems a bit off... (1)

Gravatron (716477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35191048)

The article says "While much of the attention for the Kinect has focused on video gaming, perhaps robotics will be its greatest beneficiary". This is untrue, IMHO. Outside dance central, most of the hype for the device post release has been all the hacks, with little to no talk about the games that are upcoming.
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