The Gigabots Go to School

On Monday, July 21st, The Gigabots made a small trip to North Kansas City to visit the First Robotics team at Staley High School. The group of twenty five students—from freshmen to seniors—first had the opportunity to play with with our bots, Prime and Hans, using tablets. Camilla, however, had been disassembled since her trip to New York. The students separated into a few groups, divided up tasks, and quickly rebuilt her.

Introducing Staley High School First Robotics to The Gigabots

Students Learning about The Gigabots

After successful bot reconstruction, Jonathan presented a Super Awesome Guide to Programming to the students, in order to teach some basic principles to the majority of the students who had little to no coding experience. He also covered some basics of the JavaScript language, which lead the way directly into programming the Gigabots.

Within minutes, the students, having learned some basic JavaScript, were able to program the connected Gigabots remotely by using the console-based text editor of our Gigabots Dashboard. They started with simple API calls to make the bots beep, buzz, and even sing “Bicycle Built for Two” (the first song ever sung by a computer, in 1961), which quickly became a bit too popular…Other commands moved the bot motors in a similar manner, all remotely and in realtime.

Students then learned how to implement the touch sensor into programming robot behaviors. When the touch sensor button was pressed on the specified bot, for example, the bot would beep, or it would sing, or certain motors would move. They were able to easily create any combinations of responses they could think of and then test them out.

Programming The Gigabots

Programming The Gigabots Remotely in Realtime

Special thanks to the Staley High School Engineering department and engineering teacher Aaron Dalton for helping to arrange this pilot as well as the students of the Staley First Robotics team for joining us!

 

The Gigabots Hack Their Way Into Maker Faire

On Saturday June 28 and Sunday June 29, The Gigabots set up shop at Union Station for the fourth annual Maker Faire KC. Two tablets and a few computers were laid out to control the three robots we brought. On the floor were several Lego baseplates and handfuls of Lego bricks.

Some children who visited our booth occupied themselves simply by building with the Lego bricks. The more ambitious ones would maneuver our unique crane-inspired forklift, Hans, about while trying to lift and carry their Lego creations. Many also enjoyed driving around and attempting to grab objects with our four-wheeled, claw-bearing robot, Camilla. Occasionally, battle ensued between these two robots when commandeered by a pair of competitive children. Whether they realized it or not, with each click of the trackpad or tablet on our Gigabots Dashboard, these children were communicating with robots in realtime over the Internet.

The Gigabots Engage Visitors and Let Them Take Control

The Gigabots Engage Visitors and Let Them Take Control

 Gigabot Prime attracted many visitors to our booth. Children adored him, but other visitors were intrigued by the ability to control him over the Internet from a webpage. While enjoying all of the attention, he exhibited his little dance whenever his touch-sensor button was pressed. We were able to then demonstrate bot-to-bot communication by pressing a touch-sensor button on either of our other two bots and letting visitors witness as Gigabot Prime threw his small tantrums.

The Ironmen Approve of The Gigabots

The Ironmen Approve of The Gigabots

We spoke with and engaged a total of over five hundred attendees over the course of the two-day event. Despite having to overcome slow Internet connections and a desperate shortage of batteries, The Gigabots were honored with the Maker of Merit ribbon for having demonstrated “great creativity, ingenuity and innovation.”

Maker of Merit

The Gigabots Win a Maker of Merit Ribbon

The Gigabots Prepare for Upcoming Presentations

In the past two weeks, the dashboard has grown more powerful than ever before.  Its console-based text editor can now make use of the Gigabots API, meaning you can control the Gigabots with simple commands, for a start. More importantly, you can even program larger routines by using multiples of these commands together. In addition, the dashboard’s control panel is more flexible and runs more efficiently.

It’s fun controlling a robot from your phone or computer, but what about when you want to tune into another bot? You can now select a different Gigabot from a drop-down list of bots currently running. Your dashboard instantly updates to the dashboard seen by other users controlling this same bot, and you’ll start receiving its telemetry now instead.

The Gigabots have flown to Silicon Valley this week for the US Ignite Application Summit. We’ll be presenting on Thursday at 11:15 am on the main stage as part of the morning session, ‘Advanced Wireless: Untethering Your Gig.’

US Ignite App Summit

If you’re not in Silicon Valley, you can check out The Gigabots at the fourth annual Kansas City Maker Faire at Union Station this weekend. Come visit us there, at the Mozilla booth, between 10am and 6pm on Saturday, June 28 or between 10am and 5pm on Sunday, June 29.

Kansas City Maker Faire

We’re building two new robots this week, so that Gigabot Prime, our flagship bot, has some more friends to play with. We’re also preparing some demos, so our Gigabots all have things to do, albeit play and work, which they equally enjoy.

hans

The Gigabots Visit Google Fiber Space

The Gigabots project has reached its halfway point, leaving only 6 weeks left of exciting development. This week the team presented to the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund participants and Kansas City community at Google Fiber Space and demonstrated the progress thus far.

Google Fiber Space in Kansas City

Google Fiber Space in Kansas City

One demonstration featured realtime data communication between two Gigabots. Pressing a button on our Gigabot Prime would cause him to make a playful sound. However, after pressing a button on our other bot there, Prime would make a loud buzzing sound and shake his head out of childlike frustration from realizing he wasn’t the center of attention. This relatively basic demo was made possible through Big Bang realtime technology.

Presenting Big Bang and The Gigabots

Presenting Big Bang and The Gigabots

There was no shortage of intrigue from the audience while The Gigabots were in the spotlight. Our brief presentation was followed by some Q&A focusing on how teachers and students alike can utilize The Gigabots to enhance K-12 robotics programs. Another area of Q&A was the expansion of The Gigabots technology to robotics platforms other than Lego Mindstorms. Finally, we discussed how simple turning a normal robot into a Gigabot is. As long as the bot has a card slot, only a micro-SD card containing The Gigabots firmware is required to begin communicating in realtime.

Enhancing User Experience

During our fifth and sixth weeks working on The Gigabots, we’ve been focusing on improving user experience and allowing users to interact more with the program. Our primary addition to accomplish this task is in the form of a console-based text editor, which allows users to control the robot in realtime by calling functions specified in the Gigabots API. Because it vastly opens up possibilities with using the Gigabots, our text editor is crucial in achieving our primary goal—connecting classrooms to robotics and devices using educational platforms.

Looking forward, users will be able to access and contribute to a repository of open-source code designed for the Gigabots to accomplish specific tasks. The text editor will allow users to modify and run this code. For example, the code for line-following or simply even making a turn around a certain radius may be available in the repository. If somebody has made the code, great! You can begin using it to control a Gigabot. If not, you can use the API to build it yourself and share with others. This not only offers you valuable time-savings but it fosters collaboration in a team setting.

The Enhanced Dashboard

The Enhanced Dashboard

Controlling the Gigabot or not, you can sit back and watch needles rotate in realtime to see the changing positions of the Gigabot’s motors. Since you can always observe the brand-new telemetry—colors, infrared distances, ultrasonic distances, and touches—being delivered to you, you’ll never feel left out of the action.

 

Introducing The Gigabots Dashboard

We have been connecting Gigabots to the Internet for a few weeks now. While the robots are overjoyed to send and receive raw data, humans demand more.  As a result, we have created The Gigabots Dashboard, a user interface for controlling Gigabots and receiving realtime telemetry.

We’ve developed the Dashboard with an excellent JavaScript framework named Phaser. Phaser is typically used to create 2D games, but we felt it would be an excellent fit for this project.  One of the benefits of Phaser is our ability to write the application entirely in JavaScript, which allows us to iterate quickly.

Phaser is pretty sweet.

Phaser is pretty sweet.

Phaser is also widely used on mobile devices, tablets, and desktops. This gives us confidence it will “just work” everywhere, leaving us more time to add features and change batteries.

Our first attempt at the dashboard was a bit rough,  but it contained most of the core remote-control and telemetry functionality.  After adding a few lines of code to connect the Dashboard to Big Bang, we fired up Gigabot Prime, our first LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robot,  and we were connected.

Dashboard v1

Dashboard v1

As expected, we quickly found many areas to improve on for a second version of The Gigabots Dashboard. To more easily control a wheeled Gigabot, there is now a feature to group multiple motors together and control them as a single unit. The Dashboard is also more device-friendly, with keymaps for desktops, and touch controls for mobile devices and tablets.

Dashboard v2

Dashboard v2

The team has enjoyed developing the Dashboard and the custom firmware.  We even got to experience a rare moment of “it-just-worked-the-first-time” when connecting the V1 dashboard to the V1 firmware.  We probably should have saved this luck for later.

This week we will start working on APIs that allow Gigabots to be programmed directly in browser.  This will hopefully bring a lot of fun and instant feedback to robotics programming.

 

 

The Gigabots Visit Team Titanium

The Gigabots were invited to speak with the members of  Team Titanium at Lee’s Summit West High School.  Team Titanium are 2014 Central Illinois Regional FRC Chairman’s Award winners and Industrial Design Award recipients from the 2014 FRC Championships.   

titanium_gigabot

 

We had a great discussion about connected robotics, internet technology, and entrepreneurship.  The members of Team Titanium expressed interest in swarm robotics, machine vision, and drones.   There were a lot of great questions and feedback from the students and coaches, and we will use it to guide the development of The Gigabots platform.   We are looking forward to working with them again soon!

Check out some FPV footage from their robot at the 2014 Greater Kansas City Regionals.

 

 

Introducing The Gigabots

The mission of the The Gigabots is to bring connected robotics and devices to classrooms using existing educational robotics platforms. With the availability of ultrafast gigabit connectivity, these platforms are ready to take the leap into connected computing. The resulting opportunities are vast. Students will be able to explore ideas in autonomy, swarm behavior, and remote sensing possible only with connected devices. Imagine multiple schools collaborating to build and control a robot remotely in the style of the Mars Rover challenge, or creating a distributed sensor network across a city or even the nation.

These are just two examples of the type of collaboration and communication that can arise out of The Gigabots. The past few years have generated a tremendous discussion about the future impact of the Internet of Everything (IoE).  With the support of the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund, The Gigabots is bringing IoE to students and classrooms this spring. We are very grateful to have this opportunity and are excited to participate in the Gigabit Fund.

YOLO

Gigabot Prime clings tenaciously to his large green baseplate.

A Gigabot is robotics hardware integrated with custom software and a cloud service providing realtime communication. In other words, Gigabots can talk to each other, to other devices, and to you from just about anywhere. Our Gigabots team is developing a web application that enables students to control their Gigabots and obtain real­time data from them. Students can also program Gigabots and even create mashups with other robots or with existing web services and tools.

Throughout the project, we will be holding workshops with educational partners as well as public demonstrations.   Come see us at the Kansas City Google Fiber Space on June 10th 5:30pm to 7:30pm or at the Kansas City Maker Faire June 28-29. Check back here more blog posts over the coming weeks, or follow us on twitter.   Visit getbigbang.com to learn more about realtime connectivity for almost anything.

About The Team

Jonathan Wagner is the Founder and CEO of Big Bang, a platform for realtime event and data synchronization. He is a veteran of the games industry, specializing in cross-platform networking middleware for games, simulations, MMOs, and virtual worlds. Past technology partners include: Disney, Ubisoft, Mattel, Viacom, Spinmaster and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

John DiBaggio is passionate about innovation, with interests in technology and the interwebs. Having recently graduated from the University of Kansas with a chemical engineering degree, he uses the combination of his engineering and music backgrounds to work creatively while in a technical framework.

Cole Bittel is currently a senior in mechanical engineering and will graduate in May. His interests are in machine to machine communication, realtime, and LEGO®. Cole also leads the Wakeboard Club at KU and spends his nights on teamtreehouse.com and guzzling coffee.