Graphical programming gives brains to robot soccer player

Engineering students from the Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech, USA have developed a bipedal humanoid robot using the National Instruments LabView graphical system design platform.

The Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence (Darwin) was originally developed to study human locomotion for the research and development of prosthetic limbs. However, it has been so successful at imitating human movement that the team entered Darwin as the first US entry in the robotics soccer world cup, RoboCup.

’Our students used LabView to … serve as Darwin’s brain, giving it the ability to perform high-level tasks, including playing soccer,’ said Dr Dennis Hong, director of the laboratory. ‘Development time was also reduced by simulating how Darwin would behave when performing certain tasks and being able to quickly design, prototype and deploy simulated code to an embedded target.’

Romela, which uses multiple robotic platforms, required a system that could be easily configured for different hardware setups. Students were able to create an expandable computer architecture using the LabView Real-Time Module to accommodate a range of sensors including those incorporated in IEEE 1394 cameras, RS-485 communication devices and multiple wireless networks.

LabView controls Darwin’s motion over RS-485 and can read joint positions on the same serial network from the servo motors’ built-in potentiometers. While the robot is walking or moving, a rate gyro with acceleration and orientation information communicates with LabView over an RS-232 serial connection so that the program modifies the walking gait to effectively balance the robot in real time.

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