VaderBot @ RoboGames


Posted by Chris on April 24th, 2011 in Events | Comments Off on VaderBot @ RoboGames

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RoboGames 2011

RoboGames was a huge success, and I had a blast driving Artoo around with my new controller. I lost count how many people thought he was autonomous. I could stand 5 steps away and nobody would bug me or even notice I was there. I could mingle in and out of the crowd, walk past Artoo – zero response. A lot of people would ask around who was controlling him, and I would respond “If you find out let me know”.

One downside is that I had my hands in my pockets the entire day, so didn’t take many photos. Big thanks to Jonathan and Matt who took most of these photos.

As usual, Artoo was a big hit with everyone, especially the kids
But I’m also pleasantly surprised the attention Artoo gets from the adult competitors. Here we are in the pit area

On Saturday I hadn’t thought ahead, and hiding the controller in my coat pocket wasn’t such a great idea. It was a hot day and I quickly overheated and paid the price at the end of the day. On Sunday, I remembered to bring my fanny pack to hide the controller in.

Here I am again, standing to the left of Artoo chatting to someone, with most people oblivious that I was really controlling the droid.

On Sunday, I was joined by Matt, his son Max and their droid. I really wanted to hang out with them more, but the only catch was people then assumed that he was driving both Artoo πŸ™‚

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of us together, but did find this shot on flickr of our droids and Matt in the background. It’s probably my favorite photo from the weekend.
Original photo by human fiction.

There was a few Star Wars things at the show. Of course there were children in SW Ts

And R2-Heineken made an appearance


And a mini-Darth Vader robot that had trouble standing and keeping his head on

Bonnie Burton from Lucasfilm covered the event live on Twitter, and she also took some great photos.

Onto some of the more technical aspects of the weekend, including problems and lessons learned.

RoboGames was an ideal place to field test my new controller, it’s probably one of the most extreme wireless environments I could find. There are so many different devices and robots in attendance that if something was going to trip me up, this event would. For the most part I don’t think I got any radio interference (I ran with the 900 MHz XBEE’s.) There was one instance, in the hall hosting the BotBall Tournament, where I lost communication, but I’m not sure if it was radio related. I did a reset of the system and control was restored.

I also ended up doing a lot more work prior to the event to integrate the controller into my current setup. The original goal was to only control main drive and dome, but I got that done pretty quickly after moving everything over from my demo platform.

I worked out I could tie in the Arduino and control 90% of what I have in the droid. It required a lot more software and wiring, and I started to hit limits on the basic way the Arduino (and pretty much all simple microntrollers) are programmed. As a result I started to work on some multi-threading code to help coordinate activities.

On Saturday, Jonathan arrived at my house to help load but found me feverishly trying to fix a last minute glitch. Magically overnight a servo had failed and I was busy trying to figure out why. Long story short, a batch of cheap servo from China was having problems returning to center and drawing way too much power. This would probably explain why my dome controller had been overheating this last few months, as it was supplying power to the couple of servos I have in the body. So I cut my losses and disabled the Leia Holographic for the today.

Once we got to the games, I decided to use the hidden joysticks exclusively and was super surprised how easy it was to control. Even though the external joysticks were mechanically the same as the internal, for some reason because I was reading them as direct analog, I had finer control of the droid.

I was having to much fun controlling Artoo invisibly, that I really didnt want to pull out the main Arduino controller. Running on just two sticks limited what I could do (basically dome, drive and random sounds.) So, on Saturday night I added some extra code to allow the one button I had spare on the external stick to trigger events. I could tap out codes (1 for scream, 2 for whistle, 3 for pie panels, etc. etc.). And for the most part it worked, but sometimes Artoo would miss count and I’d get a scream instead of a Leia message πŸ™‚

On Sunday morning I awoke again to problems in Artoo. I have so much new wiring, and none of it really planned, something was bound to go wrong. He’s recharged over night and when I figured him up to drive him out to the van he would move. His normal bootup sound didnt play so I knew something was up. I checked the built in battery meter and it was showing 19V. I knew this wasn’t possible so suspected something had shorted. I’d a similar issue before, and it was one of the small 7805 voltage regulators on the power board. It had overheated and failed, so instead of delivering 5V to some systems it was allow 12V thru – and tricking the power meter to show 19V. I swapped it out and we were back up and running – but I really should think above removing those 7805’s from the setup.

Next steps in the development are to fine tune the internal joysticks, and develop a better way to trigger events on just the two sticks. I have plenty of buttons and the LCD screen, but I loved just using just the joysticks. I’m thinking something similar to the JEDI controller gesture/stroke system. I also need to further develop the multi-threading code to allow me to perform multiple task in parallel. e.g. drive/dome while a routine like the Leia Hologram sequence is played out (panel open, extend Leia, pause, play sound, pause, close panel.)

I’m also not sure if I want to continue the development in my current droid. I still have my old setup in there and can flip back and forth, but the wiring has become and issue (and probably the cause of the short on the 7805.) At some point I will need to decide which direct I want to go and rewire or keep the new controller for droid #2.


Posted by Chris on April 22nd, 2011 in Electronics, Events | 2 Comments

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RoboGames 2010 – Robot Power

RoboGames was last weekend, both Matt and I brought our droids on Saturday and I soloed the event on Sunday. As usual the place was packed with people and all things robotics, from 200lb fighting battlebots to more peaceful robots that fold your laundry.



One of the highlights for me was getting to talk with the Mech Warrior guys. They had some of the most sophisticated robots in the competition, and had developed some interesting control techniques I’d like to try on R2 sometime soon.

Here’s one of their bots traversing their mini city hunting down it’s prey – bb-guns at the ready.


These bots are huge, here’s a shot next to R2 for scale


I got to hang out with Grant Imahara from Mythbusters (and an ILM alumni). He graciously spent over an hour signing and taking photos with his fans for free. And Artoo stood by entertaining the crowd while they waited.


Helping the Mech Warriors was Fon Davis, model maker extraordinaire, also an ILM alumni, who among many other things worked on repairing/painting the original OT droids for the Prequels. He also built the mini city arena for the Mech Warriors, and had some MORAV models on show – he also graciously offered to keep and eye on my stuff – Thanks Fon πŸ™‚


This is the PR2 robot , some of you may have seen recent videos of it on YouTube performing all sorts of complicated tasks, like folding your laundry.



As usual there was a lot of kids at the event



This little girl was very enamored with all things Artoo. Matt was very gracious and allowed her to control some of the sounds on his droid, and she followed us around for a big part of the afternoon. I’m pretty sure we have a couple of droid builders in the making with her family.



I had my fair share of scared kids but this was my only crier for the weekend – I normally get at least a couple more.


This woman appeared from nowhere to grab her chances at a photo. I’m not sure if Artoo or I was more frightened what she was going to do next


This is my most favorite shot of the weekend I found on flickr. Titled “R2R2 – A kid admires a pair of Artoos while his dad admires their makers.”. Original photo by Lenore M. Edman,



Posted by Chris on May 2nd, 2010 in Events | Comments Off on RoboGames 2010 – Robot Power

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BarBot 2010 News Video

R2 makes a brief appearance half way thru.

[video link]


Posted by Chris on February 22nd, 2010 in Events | Comments Off on BarBot 2010 News Video

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BarBot 2010

Matt and I took his droid to BarBot 2010 at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco last night.

BarBot is a celebration of cocktail culture and man-machine interface. Get a drink from an actual robot. Chat up a snarky electronic bartender. Listen to some graceful tunes being played by robotic music makers. And, after downing your sixth martini, you can finally admit that itÒ€ℒs the geeks who shall inherit the earth.

The event is hosted by Dave Calkins and Simone Davalos, fellow R2 Builders and the organizers of RoboGames.


Here’s Matt with his R2 serving some drinks







Here’s some of the bar tending Robots, both big and small, and made from all sorts of creative things like Lego and even triple action breast pumps.

This one one of the more fun interactive bots where you had to arm wrestle for your drink







More photos here

Posted by Chris on February 19th, 2010 in Events | 2 Comments

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RoboGames 2009

Here’s some photos from this years RoboGames, which is held annual in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Big thanks to Matt Mccormick and his me with Artoo at the end of the day.

Notice the thing around my neck? I won the Gold medal in the art bot category.

In the pits

More photos here.


Posted by Chris on October 8th, 2009 in Events | 1 Comment

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Servo Magazine RoboGames 2008 Coverage

Servo Magazine covered this years RoboGames in the October issue, including some photos of my Artoo in action in the BattleBot arena.

Get your copy at the newsstand or take a look at the PDF version of the article and see if you can spot Gerard and I in the group shot with our droids

Link: Servo Magazine – RoboGames 2008 (PDF)

RoboGames next year will be on May 1-3, and held at Fort Mason in San Francisco.


Posted by Chris on October 27th, 2008 in Events | 1 Comment

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RoboGames 2008 Report

I’m really not sure where to start with my RoboGames coverage – the weekend was jammed packed full of interesting people and cool things – like talking with the machinist who worked on the NPC motors many of us use in our droids, to hanging out with the Orb Swarm folks or Grant Imahara from Mythbusters, or getting some inside info from the engineer who maintains the machines that spin our aluminum domes. Artoo even got in on some battle bot action in the arena and lived to tell the tail.

The event is held at Fort Mason in San Francisco each year and attracts thousands of people from all over the world. I was in attendance all 3 days with support from my friend Richard, and Gerard was there on Saturday with his R2.

The games themselves cover everything from the traditional battle bot arena tournaments, to robot soccer and sumo fighting. There are also special categories for art and bar tending robots. Maybe next year I’ll enter Artoo into the latter. In total there were 70 different competitive categories.

Artoo was a big crowd pleaser as usual, and many photos were taken with his admiring fans. My favorite was this one I found on Flickr by inkyhack.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Chris on June 19th, 2008 in Events | 2 Comments

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