Electronic Design

Virginia Tech Students Develop Humanoid Robot

Engineering students from the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) at Virginia Tech have developed a bipedal humanoid robot that has been accepted as the first-ever U.S. entry into RoboCup, an international robotic soccer competition. The Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence (DARwIn) was originally developed to study human locomotion for the development of prosthetic limbs. DARwIn achieves full range of motion and accurately imitates human movement so effectively that it was quickly modified to play soccer. Students used National Instruments' LabVIEW graphical system design platform to enhance DARwIn's soccer skills, which they were able to program in just one week. “Our students used LabVIEW to design an expandable software platform as well as serve as DARwIn’s brain, giving it the ability to perform high-level tasks, including playing soccer,” Dennis Hong, director of RoMeLa, said in a statement. “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.” One graduate student configured two IEEE 1394 cameras and wrote a VI in two hours that identified and physically located the relative position of a soccer ball. Other students created an expandable computer architecture using the LabVIEW Real-Time Module to accommodate a range of sensors including those 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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