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Segway's Robotic Mobility Platform 90

XopherMV writes "USA Today reports a military project aimed at building smarter robots has given researchers the wheels they need to make their automatons go. Originally developed by New Hampshire-based Segway for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program, the firm's Robotic Mobility Platform (RMP) allows robot developers to focus more on the thinking power of their machines while providing a quick mode of transportation. Segway's self-balancing robot platform takes up about 2 square feet and comes equipped with software and interface electronics necessary to receive, process and execute commands from an onboard robot payload. "It was a minor modification to what we had," Morrell said. "The challenges for us were largely in declining to get too fancy, and keeping it really simple." Capable of carrying 100 pounds (45 kilograms) and moving about 8 miles (12 kilometers) an hour, the platform has two different modes. Researchers can choose between its standalone function as a robot's wheels or a tractor-like mode for towing trailers or other loads. "The goal is not to have researchers worry about transportation," Morrell said. "That way, if [a robot's computer algorithms] work on an RMP, then you could put it on a Hummer or anything else.""
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Segway's Robotic Mobility Platform

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  • yikes! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Scythr0x0rs ( 801943 ) * on Saturday October 23, 2004 @08:07AM (#10608022)
    I for one welcome our Segway powered over^H^H^H^H... oh, found the on/off switch!
  • by TAGmclaren ( 820485 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @08:11AM (#10608033)
    that's the hallmark of a number of awesome inventions - the aim was simplicity at the outset. That's not say it won't get complicated later on, but when you start out complicated more often the complication (and the associated cost) takes over from the crux of the idea.
    • by moonbender ( 547943 ) < minus pi> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @09:21AM (#10608215)
      If the adhered to KISS, why not just put a third wheel down there and get rid of all the then-superflous balancing? I mean, I guess I can see how the two wheel system is nice for humans, but what does a robot care? And I don't see how it's more useful for getting around and avoiding obstacles, if anything the opposite seems to be the case. It's like creating a self-balancing computer desk with two legs.
      • The turning axis is immediate on a 2-wheeled vehicle, whilst not so on a three-wheeler. Add a bomb field, a bomb-sensing arm a foot in front of the wheels and you should immediately see what I mean...
      • By keeping it simple, I don't think they necessarily meant keeping the platform archaic. I think they meant that they should use a tested and reliable self-balancing platform that is 'off the shelf' such as the Segway, as opposed to developing their own.
      • If you look at egwayRMP.html
        It seems as though it can be used in a four wheel configuration by towing for added carrying capacity. Seems as though it could have many uses while remaining simple.
      • Possibly because so far noone has demonstrated a practical transportation device based on 3 or more wheels that would have all benefits of a Segway. You've seen the modern robots, haven't you? Some of them have 3 wheels, some have legs, but in the best case they move at 3km/h on a perfectly flat surface. You can badmouth Segway as much as you want, and be a smartass about the third wheel, that doesn't change the fact that Segways are revolutionary, cool and useful. And you know what, after all these years t
        • Huh? I wasn't joking. I had no intention to badmouth the Segway, either. I just don't see how the Segway's arguably existing (if it makes you happy: revolutionary) benefits translate to a roboter: things that are beneficial to a human operator don't have to be for a bot. For instance while speech control can be nice for humans, nobody would consider it a sensible interface for a bot - granted this is an extreme example.

          The two benefits mentioned by others above - you helpfully didn't mention any - are the
          • It looked like you are just repeating the 3rd wheel joke, sorry. The main benefit of Segway is that by being dynamically balanced it's much more mobile and manoeuvrable. 3-wheeled and 4-wheeled platforms will be unable to quickly accelerate/decelerate (without toppling over) and turning around (without either requiring a lot of space or doing it in many steps). You can solve these two problems, but you are bound to spend more resources on that than was spent on Segway's dynamic balancing. So even though 2 w
      • Maybe because the 2-wheeled platform is more stable.

        It's easier to tip a three wheeled vehicle an make it fall, whereas a self-stabilized two wheeled vehicle can handle different terrains.

  • 100 pounds / 45 kg (Score:5, Insightful)

    by helfen ( 791121 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @08:13AM (#10608039)
    Capable of carrying 100 pounds (45 kilograms)
    so it is rather for thin people, very thin
    • by Luigi30 ( 656867 )
      No, it's for robots.
    • by rob13572468 ( 788682 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @09:04AM (#10608172)
      100 pounds capacity is enough to shuttle supplies to ground troops in forward areas, or to take a surveilance camera into an occupied building, or down a street that is under fire, or even to quickly clear a path through a minefield.

      The conflicts today and in the near future are not going to involve large scale movements; they will likely be in civilian areas and involve activities that are more akin to policing and patrol. M1A1 tanks and even Striker APC's will simply be too large to move around in the types of urban settings where are troops are likely to be needed.

      These sorts of conflicts will require lots of ground troops to go in on foot and patrol in areas where they may not be able to tell enemy combatants from civilians and in these cases, a mobile robotic platform will be invaluable. Just imagine troops moving into an unsecured area. They will send in a few dozen segbots that will move ahead into position, see around corners and down alleys and even remotly fire tear gas. If a sniper fires a single shot, the units will automatically and instantly triangulate the position of the shooter and report it back so that the troops can quickly respond. If troops come under heavy fire, the units can be sent right to the enemy as a sort of ground strike force to quickly respond with any choice of weapons.

      By using the segway platform as a base, the developers now have the entire mobility issue taken care from the start and instead can focus on the (more difficult) task of developing a robust navigation system. the segway is proven to be reliable so that is one less aspect to worry about on what is obviously a very complex project.
    • >thin people

      Do try to RTFA before posting. At least RTF /. story.

      It's a generic wheelbase for robots. It's intended that researchers (at this list of institutions who got them) will be able to work more efficiently if they are freed from the mechanical details of moving their robot around.

      The subtler point is that Segway and others can then work on competing mobility platforms that outperform Segway's current model - giving Segway a leg up, er, or something like that.

      (That's Read The Fine Article f
    • It isn't meant to carry people. Put a gun on it, and you can send a bunch to places where you expect 90% casually rates, without worry. The few that make it take out the target, then people come latter, gather all the ones that didn't make it and fix them. No loss of life.

      Issues like knowing who to shoot, telling the good guys from the bad, and the laws of robots are left as an exercise for the reader. :)

      • Re:its a robot (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TykeClone ( 668449 )
        I would think that if you're going into a spot where there's likely to be a 90% casualty rate you're not likely to find a high proportion of good guys to bad guys.
  • Scale it up (Score:3, Funny)

    by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @08:16AM (#10608048) Homepage
    They're missing a possibility in the entertainment market:

    Monster Segway Robot Challenge! (Only this Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!)

  • Remember folks, (Score:4, Informative)

    by DLR ( 18892 ) <dlrosenthal AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday October 23, 2004 @08:26AM (#10608075) Journal
    You saw it here [] first!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    How easy is it to mount hydraulic hammers and saws and slamming pickaxes onto this thing? I need to know in time to finish my new "RoboGinsu" in time for the next battlebots tournament.
  • by MrRTFM ( 740877 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @08:37AM (#10608101) Journal
    I like this idea - I dont really care if Segway is the best method but its great that researchers (and hobbiests if the price goes down) can use a simple building block.

    Anything that gets robots out to the consumer is good - I am still suprised that robots have taken such a lot time to be sellable. I want my drink retrieving, vaccuum cleaning, walking, talking robot - Damnit!!
    • I want my drink retrieving, vaccuum cleaning, walking, talking robot - Damnit!!

      These things have a scientific name in meatspace - they're known as "wives". ::ducks:: :)
      • These things have a scientific name in meatspace - they're known as "wives". ::ducks:: :)

        No - I meant the model with a mute button, and 'dont remind me again' checkbox :)

        • Woman v1.0 Addendum.
          You put a tick in "Never remind me again".

          Woman v1.0 going haywire, throwing your clothes in the street, changing the locks.
          There are reports of possible security problems if your Woman 1.0 has local network access with other Woman devices. Though this problem may infact be a fundimental flaw.

          To rectify this issue, you must perform the following steps*:
          1) Disconnect all other Woman devices and concentrate 100% on your errant model.
          2) Install Flowers v1.
    • I like this idea - I dont really care if Segway is the best method but its great that researchers (and hobbiests if the price goes down) can use a simple building block.

      Exactly how is a Segway a simple building block compared to any other electric scooter that costs an order of magnitude less?

      • By being a simple building block, of course. Just because you seem to have a different opinion of building blocks doesn't mean the rest of the world has to conform to your opinions.
      • It's software controlled, and the user is handed the software.

        Now maybe you could build a robot with hands to move a throtttle and turn a steering wheel.

        But tha'ts what this dos. Take that out of the developments so that others can work on the more specefic stuff.
    • Anything that gets robots out to the consumer is good - I am still suprised that robots have taken such a lot time to be sellable.

      The reason robots are slow to make it out into the public is because previous versions were found to eat old-people's medicine for fuel [].
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @08:39AM (#10608108) Journal

    I totally can't see the use for this.

    Well actually I can, if I walk around the "battlefield training" areas where americans test their weapons. You know, like the bombing range where they tested the norton bomb sights. A location chosen for its all year around clear weather.

    What can a segway possibly be used for. Well it is slow as well but about as fast as a marching soldier so it can save them energy. Well true. If the battle field is nice and smooth with a hard surface. No rain, mud, loose sand, rivers, streams, shell holes, trenches, fences, barbed wire, loose stones etc etc etc. None of the stuff in fact that makes up a battlefield

    Even an urban battlefield doesn't stay clean enough for long for this thing to be practical.

    Behind the battlefield? Ehm yeah the thing is still damn slow and your still standing. So no replament for a truck.

    Carrying supplies or wounded? Same problem, at the battlefield where trucks and such are to big it can't move and behind the lines it is to slow.

    Even a soldier on patrol is useless, he needs his hands on his weapon not on the controls of this thing, at least with a truck you got 1 driver and 2-3 passengers.

    No I can see this as another way to make war look nicer and cleaner. This will not be the revolution that the jeep was.

  • As a person who is right in the 'likely to get drafted if there's a draft' demographic, I say bring on the military robots ASAP! I look forward to the day when pilotless aircraft and driverless vehicles battle it out instead of humans. Who knows, one day we might have a world war with no human casualties. The winner would be the side who manages to get their robots past the opposition's defensive lines to trash up the enemy's electricity, computer systems, telecommunications etc, thereby essentially crippli
    • Bush has said often that there will not be a draft, there are enough troops. In fact more than enough, the military doesn't take everyone who walks through their doors trying to get in.

      Kerry says we need 40,000 more troops. Where is he going to get them? True he can start with those who were refused, but is that enough?

      Kerry has said that he would go to war in Iraq. He hasn't been real clear, and who knows what he would have really done, but there is a good chance that if he was president now there

      • Ok. The democrats are the bad guys because they say that they need more soldiers to clean up the mess the republicans created?
      • OK... Way off base their buddy...

        "Bush has said often that there will not be a draft, there are enough troops."

        Other than (another) verbal slip-ups a few nights ago, both Kerry and Bush have repetedly said there will be no draft. They have never left wiggle-room on the issue, they are ALWAYS very clearly against the idea, from both sides.

        "Kerry says we need 40,000 more troops."

        So does the General on the ground, I believe, who was quoted as saying we didn't have enough troops(correct me if I am wrong

      • "Follow politics, don't just listen to claims
        by bluGill (862) on Saturday October 23, @07:30AM (#10608488)"

        Props to your User ID, that has to be by far the lowest I have seen on /.

  • So ... (Score:4, Funny)

    by wobblie ( 191824 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @10:28AM (#10608475)
    The Masters of Useless Technology have finally discovered the biggest consumers of useless crap that has ever existed - the US military, and boy those pockets are deep.

    This is sort of like when the RIAA discovered the disposable income of teenagers, but with added gore.
  • Perhaps Dean Kamen's super-mobility wheelchairs will help the people maimed by Dean Kamen's super-mobility killer robots!
  • Here at CMU... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Xerotope ( 777662 )
    We've had a couple of these for the past year or so. They're currently being developed into soccer-playing robots as part of Robocup. []

    The goal there is to have a team of humans on segways play segway robots in an actual soccer match.

    The project's website, which has a movie page with a ton of movies of the thing in action is here. []
  • by racerx509 ( 204322 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @12:18PM (#10609019) Homepage
    Judging from the replies here, I'm guessing none of you have seen the new segway centaur prototype. It has been shown working its way about grassy terrain, and moving over obstacles such as boxes. While it is a 4 wheeled vehicle, it also has the power to do the two wheeled balancing act of its older segway cousin. i suggest you all check it out, before dooming this military project.
  • What do they want these robots to do?

    If they want to trasport supplies, the ground-based is a requirement.

    However, if they want Robot Scouts or Soldiers, I think that there are better ideas.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday October 23, 2004 @12:54PM (#10609244) Homepage
    About fifteen years ago,the big problem with robotics R&D was the lack of off the shelf platforms. Too much academic time was going into building motorized bases.

    But that's no longer the case. There are many good off the shelf bases. Cybermotion, iRobot, Arrick, ActiveMedia, Klephera, and Zagros all make wheeled robot bases. Even legged machines are available.

    Right now, the big bottleneck is sensing. Visual processing still doesn't work (the hardware is fine, but the theory doesn't work), true 3D laser rangefingers aren't here yet (although I've seen one working on an optical bench) and submillimeter radar hasn't reached production yet (millimeter radar has limited resolution.) Most of the hobbyist world is still using 1980s ultrasonic devices, IR reflectance sensors, and feelers, which don't work any better than they did in the 1980s.

  • The RMP has been around for a while - in fact you slashdotted USC's robotics lab about 18 months ago when they posted their Player drivers for RMP.

    Anyway, Here are some movies [] of the RMP running the Player Robot Server [](GPL, naturally). If you want to try programming a Segway RMP, but haven't got one sitting around, you can use the Gazebo robot simulator [] with Player - your code won't know the difference.

    (Please, please somebody mirror these movies before we brown-out Southern California. Sorry Andrew...

  • by LS ( 57954 )
    So when do I get one of these?? []

  • Looks like the military segbots are already getting in trouble with the police: /index.html []

    I can see it now: "World's Wildest Robot Chases"
  • So as I understand this, this is a free-standing propulsion system for robots. Would-be robot-makers need no longer worry about keeping the thing on its feet--just buy one of these modified Robo-Segway packages, configure your software, and plug it in. It's sort of like open-source, except with hardware and for money. (Emphasis on "sort of".)
  • Segway: Cool, but over-hyped solution to a solved problem. The bicycle and motorcycle are much better solutions. Give it up, already. Anyone remember the days when people like Steve Jobs were saying this gadget would "change the way cities are made"? Please, let the segway fade into obscurity and die.
  • Why does tech always get hijacked by the military ?

    This mobility platform would be totally useful for firefighting, aid distribution, disaster relief, surveying...i'm sure there are other non violent use.

    How about connecting a number of them in series to form a n-wheel drive cross country train, which can split into smaller parts and recombine as nessesary ?
  • "The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots."

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"