Right now I am working on the software part of the robot. The area I have worked most on is related to vision, audio and other rather complex areas. I have hit a wall because the single most important algorithm for the vision subsytem, namely the SURF has an implementation in OpenCL that refuses to run on my nVidia hardware. Apparently nVidia has inferior OpenCL support to the likes of AMD. I have struggled with a hodgepodge of drivers, libraries and versions before essentially giving up til I get my hands on some better hardware.
In the meantime I have shifted focus to another important part of the software, namely motion. How will the position of the legs be calculated? I have worked with 3D graphics for a while earlier in my carrier, and I instantly googled "IK" for "Inverse Kinematics", which is the art and science of calculating where a bunch of stuff under constraints will move when receiving input.
It turns out that to make IK work I will have to create an accurate 3D model of the robot body first. How else would the IK solver know what and how to operate?
After looking around for a bit for C++ libraries for solving IK problems, I came across IKFast which is a plugin to the extensive OpenRAVE project that takes the whole making a model and simulating it very seriously. Actually IKFast is a compiler that will generate C++ code that can be incorporated into my project directly. It needs a robot description as input, and it will output code that is fast, accurate and robust and that fits my robot perfectly.
This is exactly the kind of tool I love. Performance in the front seat. The downside (or upside if you will) is that I need to know exaclty how my robot should look like, and although I have all these dreams resembling scenes from the sci-fi movies, I havent put much effort into finding a resonable working design.
I guess it is time that I start designing the body of my robot. Maybe I can use the robot model to simulate my way to a better design?
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