Boulder is for Robots

08 Feb 2012

Last night marked the beginning of a new era in the greater Denver area – the first Boulder is for Robots Meetup. One hundred robot enthusiasts, tech nerds, and entrepreneurs gathered at Boulder's Google Headquarters to celebrate all things robot and, of course, drink beer.

Events included all-around socializing and presentations, as well as eating massive slices of pizza. A handful of individual companies presented their newest products, projects, and ideas to the audience. Altius Space demoed their Stickyboom technology - a mechanical tractor-beam mechanism that actually nabs "non-cooperative" objects using electrostatic adhesion technology. Then ModRobotics showed off their Cubelets, a construction kit of sorts that enables young hackers and makers to build robots.

Gamma Two Robotics was there to introduce us to their basic-service robots (Basil), that can actually serve your guests food at parties, among other tasks. Also toting robots along was Sparkfun, who introduced us to their potato-gun robot mounted on a 6WD Wild Thumper chassis. Yes, it shoots potatoes. Our team at Orbotix was happy to host and introduce the group to the nitty-gritty technology behind our very own Sphero. Here's the run-down in ultra-geek terms, in case you weren't there.

You can pack a lot of tech into a 3" robot ball. Start with a sensor network - multi-axis rate gyro and accelerometer - fused together with the same kind of math that took Apollo to the Moon. Now run those matrix computations over 200 times/second, transpose the output to spin velocity controlled motors, and you have a 3D stability platform that can drive around at 3 ft/s. Power it with lithium polymer batteries which are inductively recharged through the shell and add a Bluetooth-based command and control data link. Finally, mix in over-the-air firmware updates and internally sandboxed language extensions, and you have a true robot that is an intelligent component of a smart phone app-based gaming, learning, and human-machine interaction system. Driving Sphero over ramps only scratches the surface of what is possible with this incredible robot.

Everyone is looking forward to the next meetup. We hope to round up the techies every two months, so if you missed out be sure to join us next time! A big thanks to our organizers - Brad Feld, Nikolaus Correll, Paul Berberian, Ross Ingram, and to Boulder's Google Headquarters for having us. For more information on the creative genius behind the event, check out Brad Feld's Blog.

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