When you’re at a robot event like Stanford University’s Robot Block Party this week, the unusual and automated shouldn’t come as a surprise. But I couldn’t help stare when I spotted a little robot following someone around.
The robot is called Turtlebot II, and it uses an open platform for robot development according to software developer Chad Rockey. “What it allows you to do is run navigation through the ROS open source software,” Rockey said. “You can take it out of the box, put it down, type on the computer and then you’re running navigation within 10 or 20 minutes.
ROS stands for robot operating system, and it’s specifically tailored for running robots. It’s intended to make software development as easy and standard as possible so developers can pay more attention to their hardware, like integrating an Xbox Kinect sensor in the Turtlebot II.
So what can this robot do? According to Rockey, it has the ability to follow you around and make maps out of your house. That way, Rockey says, “you can actually take the top and turn it into a drinks server. So what people like to do is put drinks on it in the kitchen and tell it to drive to the living room and it will ferry the drinks for you.”
Martyn Williams produces technology news and product reviews in text and video for PC World, Macworld, and TechHive from his home outside Washington D.C.. He previously worked for IDG News Service as a correspondent in San Francisco and Tokyo and has reported on technology news from across Asia and Europe.