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

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.

 

 

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.