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B.R.A.I.N. is released!
Thursday, 19 June 2008

As per Dave Evan's forum posting, the first public version of B.R.A.I.N. has been released.

Be sure to use the B.R.A.I.N. section in the forums for any support issues or questions.

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PC Bot Hardware Implementation Gets a Patent
Tuesday, 17 June 2008

White Box Robotics have recently announced that they have been granted a US patent for the 914 PC Bot hardware implementation.

You can view the full patent over at WIPO.

The important thing about this patent, as well as the general chassis design for the 914, is of course that it covers using industry standard 5.25" PC drive bays in a mobile robot, which is a key element for the PC Bot concept and ongoing related products.

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914 at Maker Faire
Friday, 13 June 2008

Here's a YouTube video of Richard Lepack, President of White Box Robotics, talking about the 914 PC Bot at Maker Faire.

The 914 got a lot of exposure on the Microsoft stand - and that looks a lot like Dave Evan's .NET based B.R.A.I.N. software on the screen at the end.

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The Ultimate Science Faire of the Wild and Whacky - Maker Faire
Saturday, 24 May 2008

Richard Lepack, the President of White Box Robotics sent me his report from this year's Maker Faire. Rich Writes:

During the weekend of May 3-4 I attended Maker Faire (www.makerfaire.com) in San Mateo, California, where an estimated 65,000 attendees of all ages came to see the most varied exhibition I've personally ever seen.

While having breakfast at the hotel on the first morning, I saw a specimen of a man I'd never seen in a hotel environment before. He would have been better suited in a Bruce Willis or Denzel Washington movie. He was dressed in black boots up to his knees, black trench coat, leather gloves up to his elbows and cut off at the fingers. Dark maroon vest with chains, bald and ears pierced half a dozen times. He was a Maker! Once I got to Maker Faire, he fitted right in!

That's what people who build the weird, whacky and sometimes totally useless, but totally cool stuff are called at this show. Makers! On a few occasions I had people ask me, "Are you a Maker?". Hmmm. I guess so, I responded.

This was really a personally interesting show. I saw a personal back mounted jet pack and simulator, PC Case mod that was a beaver, an R2-D2 replica about 31/2 feet tall, a solar powered electric tricycle, fire breathing mechatronic robots, just to name a few things. Just take at look at the video on the maker faire web above and you'll get the idea.

White Box Robotics was in the Microsoft booth showing the 914 PC Bot and how Makers can use the .NET Framework. The reception was very good. It's interesting how some people immediately think of half a dozen potential uses for it.

If you are ever in San Mateo or Austin during Maker Faire, be sure not to miss it!

There are many sources of news around the Internet about Maker Faire, but be sure to check out this one over at ExtremeTech featuring the 914. Also, check out this video - The Best of Maker Faire:

Please install Plash Player 9

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Monday, 19 May 2008

Our very own Dave Evans has just about finished his much anticipated 914 software entitled B.R.A.I.N.

Dave plans to release a Version 1.0 of B.R.A.I.N. in the next few days. From his website:

"B.R.A.I.N. is a Windows based software application that runs on the 914 robot. It also runs on a remote client (PC) to allow for tele-presence and tele-operation of the robot. B.R.A.I.N. is designed to bring your Robot to life in seconds. After a simple install process, your 914 is up and running, allowing it to navigate, sense, speak, and transmit video."

Support for B.R.A.I.N. will be through the 914pcbots.com forums, in a special section.

Watch out for the download in the next few days!

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914pcbots.com Is Back Online
Sunday, 11 May 2008

After a long story involving the site being hacked and an issue with the (old) hosting company, 914pcbots.com is now back online.

There will be some good things coming shortly, so watch this space.

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Via Isaiah CPU Core
Friday, 25 January 2008

Via, pioneers of the mini-itx form factor system board, have announced a new processor core which is code named Isaiah.

As time goes on, processors will always get faster and use less power. The Isaiah sticks with this trend, providing roughly twice the performance of the Via C7 at the same power - and there is always the potential for dual core versions too.

Although not yet released, of course the Isaiah will offer another future 914 upgrade path, competing with current Intel based mini-itx boards.

You can check a very in depth article about the Isaiah over at The Inquirer.

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Robot Joins UT Recruiting Team
Friday, 18 January 2008

You may remember an project from the University of Toledo to mount a large monitor to the 914. Since then, the 914 has been used for recruiting prospective students at Toledo, which is reported in an article over at the Toledo Blade. From the article:

"The White Box Robotics 914 PC-BOT's job is to provide a "wow factor" to make sure visitors don't forget UT, said Nick Morgan, assistant director of undergraduate admissions.

Students are visiting a lot more campuses and we want to stand out," he said.

Mr. Morgan said high school juniors and seniors used to visit a campus or two before deciding where to get their degree. Now it's common for them to visit four campuses or more, he said.

So schools have to keep looking for ways to stand out."

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Monday, 14 January 2008

ActiveFace is a piece of software that may interest some of you who are programming your 914 in Visual Studio .NET

From the ActiveFace website: "ActiveFace biometric solution automatically captures faces in the viewing area of a camera and finds a match in less than 500ms even with low quality web cams. This makes it an outstanding and affordable choice compared to other biometric solutions."

Although not free, ActiveFace is rather cheaper than other commercial solutions. There is a compiled demo application that you can download and use to test the functionality with, although the main intention of ActiveFace is that it should be used as an add-in to Visual Studio .NET - in a similar way to the 914 .NET controls. This means that you can easily add face recognition to your .NET project, which should be able to identify individuals as they enter the room.

I've tried out the demo application with reasonable success using two people, a plastic Star Wars Stormtrooper toy, and the dog as test subjects. ActiveFace of course requires training to learn the individuals that it is to recognise, but this only takes a couple of minutes - taking repeated samples as you move around in front of the camera.

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Vacuum Cleaner Mod
Sunday, 06 January 2008

C6jones720 sent in this modification to add a small vacuum cleaner to his 914. Chris writes:

I don’t know about you guys but when I show people my robot after their initial reaction of “Wow – a real robot!” their next reaction is to say “So, what does it do?”

If I had a penny for every time I was asked that question, I would be a rich man. So I got to thinking. I’ve got this amazing 914 robot with such great potential, what can I make it do for me?

Well one of those robotic applications people always seem to mention is vacuuming the floor. Realistically its not that huge a task, and given that the robot has digital I/O available it should be possible to use it and make a 914 perform the task of vacuuming a small floor. I thought I’d give it a go and see what happens:

I popped down the local shops and purchased a cordless vacuum cleaner. It comes with its own 6volt lead acid battery. It simply consists of a motor and a battery. If the On/Off switch was forced to On always, it would be a simple task to turn the vacuum on and off using a relay and a transistor.


I seem to recall one of James’s videos on the site showing his robot drive around avoiding obstacles using Player. It struck me at the time that this would be suitable for use as a vacuuming algorithm. The vacuum would be switched on whilst the robot drove around a room. After a preset period of time the robot would turn off the vacuum and return to the docking station for charging.

You can also check out a video of the vacuuming 914 in action on YouTube:

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