The World Models RoboPhilo
High-End Humanoid Features At A Great Price!
Humanoids! No matter what your personal area of interest within the robotics hobby is, there is something about humanoids that really grabs your attention. Maybe it comes from our infatuation with the famous Robinsons robot in Lost in Space, or perhaps you imagined Rosie helping around your house as she did on The Jetsons. No matter where your infatuation with these lifelike robots comes from, companies like The World Models make the humanoid robot as commonplace and easy to obtain as a DVD player.
The RoboPhilo is not a new humanoid, although it has acquired some software and hardware options. If you read our Humanoid Buyers Guide in the May/June 2011 issue of Robot magazine, you would, most likely, have been amazed at the vast range of humanoids that are available in the market today. We revisit the RoboPhilo because it offers a robust mix of 20 degrees of freedom (DOF) and a powerful software suite; it comes as a kit or ready-to-walk (RTW) model at a price point allowing anyone to easily get into the exciting world of humanoid robotics.
RoboPhilo was developed in California by RoboBrothers, Inc. and World Models Manufacturing Ltd. back in 2007. For those of you who dont know it, The World Models is a leader in the world of radio control aircraft, introducing a broad range of RC models for over 15 years. Their dedication to the needs of modelers and hobbyists is apparent in the design and flexibility of the RoboPhilo. Their involvement with RC models helped them key in on three important aspects when developing the RoboPhilo; durability, flexibility, and ease of operation.
PHILO stands for Programmable Humanoid In Lifelike Operation. It stands 13 inches tall and weighs just over 42 ounces with its 6 volt 700mAh battery pack. The remote control is a 36KHz IR hand-held type, resembling that of a TV remote. RoboPhilo is available in a kit form or a ready-to-walk (RTW) version. When Robot magazine first looked at RoboPhilo, it was the RTW version. This time we wanted to take a closer look at whats involved in building the kit.
One thing I have to say about this kit is that the instructions are excellent. However, they detail every assembly step in a method that must be followed in the exact order. Pay attention in the beginning to the labels on the sides of the servos. Even though they may have the same model number, the length of the servo wires will vary and you do not want to end up putting a short wired servo on the foot as it will never reach the control panel. Also, with regards to the servos, you will be required to cut the mounting tabs off of several of them and if you cut the wrong ones you will not be able to use them in other locations. I suggest reading through the entire manual before starting the assembly.
The overall assembly took my son and me about five hours to complete. I can tell you that if we were a bit more careful, paying attention to details in the manual, we could have easily shaved an hour off the assembly time. But our excitement to bring RoboPhilo to life led us to disassembling and reassembling some components a couple of times.
After you assemble each part of the robot, you will need to connect that limb to the robots control panel so you can set the zero position of the servos before making the final connections. Spending adequate time at each of these stages will make the fine tuning process much simpler down the road. There is a 10-pin jumper block that requires you to move the jumper from location one to location five as you perform this process. Location one is used for tuning the robot and location five is for running. The servo horns are splined and by simply rotating them on the servos output shaft you should be able to find a location that is very close to the neutral position that the manual is calling for.
Once the robot is assembled, you have to generate a factory tuned motion file. This is done with a utility that is on the CD that runs from the command prompt. Once complete, the process of fine tuning the RoboPhilo can begin.
There is a chart in the manual which shows the zero degree locations for each motion (servo) as well as the degrees of travel that each motion should have. This will be your guide as you perform the fine tuning process. The serial RS-232 cable connects the controller board to your computer. My laptop did not have a serial port so I used a USB-toserial convertor which worked perfectly. I did experience an initial problem with the connection process and getting the software to recognize the robot. Again, referring back to the instructions, it is necessary to power the robot off and then on while clicking the Connect button within 10 seconds from powering it up in order to get the software to see it. It took me a couple of tries to get used to this.
The fine tuning process is done with the Motion Creator program that is on the CD. Once the software recognizes the robot, click the Fine Tuning tab and each motion of the robot is displayed on the screen, each with three settings; position, offset, and ATV (adjustable travel volume).
The position setting, simply enough, allows you to define the servos position in degrees. For instance, entering 0 would indicate the null position where entering 90 would move the servo 90 degrees from the null position and so on. The offset setting is used to fine tune the servo at zero degrees. There are lines on both the servo mount and robot that help you align the zero degree mark. As I said earlier, by taking the time to align the servo splines, most adjustments to the offset will only require a few degrees of adjustment to get them to zero. The ATV adjustment is used to set the physical travel angle limits for each position. As with the rest of the RoboPhilo, taking your time here to get each motion perfect will aid in getting the RoboPhilo up and walking faster. The last step before we can really start playing with the RoboPhilo is to wrap all the wires so they are neat and out of the way. Be careful that you leave enough slack in each wire to accommodate that servos motion without binding on the wires. Once the wires are tidied up, you can put the chest and back covers on and dress up your RoboPhilo with the included colored decals.
CREATING AND EDITING MOTIONS
The Motion Creator software is very intuitive and follows a very logical and hierarchical structure. There are six functional tabs defining various aspects of the programming process.
The Config tab defines the global parameters for the RoboPhilo, including the serial COM port number, robot ID, speed, mode, number of steps and position increments. It also allows you to open and save motion files and connect to the robots controller.
The Pose tab is where you define the pose for each position of the robot. Think of this as how they used to make cartoons in the days before computer animation; where the artist would draw a pose or move a clay model, take a picture to a frame, and then do the next and so on, producing a full motion video when played back. My best advice here would be to sketch out on paper what you would like RoboPhilo to do so you can plan out each motion for a given sequence.
The Sequence tab is where you string each of the poses into a defined motion. For instance, you might have five poses that make up a kick motion. You would call each of these poses in order adjusting parameters like speed and the number of steps to arrive at that pose. To save memory, you are able to call the same poses multiple times within a sequence. Once your sequence is complete you can save it with a unique name such as “karate kick 1Â¨.
The Routine tab allows you to string multiple sequences together to create one long pattern. The demo routine that is included on the CD is a good example of what a routine can look like. The Demo routine has RoboPhilo showing off karate moves as well as walking and push-ups.
The Key tab allows you to program the remote control by defining specific routines to certain keys. I compared the remote earlier to that of a TV remote; however, the RoboPhilo remote has been designed for specific use for the robot. The keys on the remote are all specifically labeled to make using it and assigning functions very easy. There are four color coded buttons that allow you to use one remote to control up to four separate robots.
I found RoboPhilo very easy to understand and program. The CD comes with 150 predefined poses along with 50 sequences and 50 routines. It was hard to think of a new action for the robot to perform that did not already exist. In many cases I would find a pose or sequence that was close to what I wanted and would simply modify it to meet my needs.
Since RoboPhilo uses standard servos, there is no feedback logic, eliminating the ability to pose the robot manually and simply “grabÂ¨ the servo’s location settings. This is something you find more common on humanoids costing 4-5 times more than RoboPhilo. For me, itÂ¡Â¦s not a feature that is missed. Playing with different combinations of sequences, poses and routines can keep you busy for many hours. After spending a lot of time using RoboPhilo, I found that I got used to what the various positions would be as I was programming. I could look at the arm and know I wanted the shoulder at 45 degrees and the elbow at 100 degrees. Like riding a bike, you just get used to it and the software could not make it any easier.
FULLY OPEN SOURCE
I was so happy to see that The RoboBrothers used openplatform architecture when designing the RoboPhilo. The central processing unit relies on the Atmega controller which is contains tons of programming information online. The firmware for the controller is upgradeable and available for download on the RoboPhilo website. The file format is text based and fully commented making it able to be read and modified by a variety of programming languages. In fact we have already started working on a web-based app that would allow you to control the operation of the RoboPhilo via an iPhone.
They have also released a full Cbased SDK and API for the RoboPhilo which will allow users to expand the robot’s functions and capabilities. The Atmega32-16PU supports up to 24 servos and 8 sensors allowing the use of extra hardware that will give developers the ability to create more autonomous behaviors. As an example we are looking to position a small camera in the head of RoboPhilo so we can have a point-of-view (POV) look as the robot runs through routines. Additionally, you could add sensors that detect objects and position as well as a host of other sensors for logic inducing functionality.
IS ROBOPHILO FOR ME?
In short, if you have an interest in humanoids then YES, without a doubt it is for you. While you do not have the ability to receive feedback from the servos like some higher-end models, you do have a platform with 20 DOF, a rugged design and open source programming architecture. Even though it is most likely intended to be an entry-level product, the RoboPhilo has established a sort of “cult” following online with many discussion groups and software sharing for you to partake in. In my opinion, the RoboPhilo is great for hobbyists, education and especially for full-contact competitions like RoboGames. RoboPhilo can act as a learning and development platform or can simply be a high-end “toyÂ¨ Either way, the price point puts a highly programmable and functional humanoid within reach of even the most budget-conscious enthusiasts.
HEIGHT: 13 in. (330.2mm)
WEIGHT: 42.3 oz. (1200g)
1 PCB Unit
2 36KHz controller
3 36KHz receiver
4 6V NiMH battery
5 7.2V 1000mAh charger
6 Graphical motion editing software
7 Hanger stand
2 Interrupt Driven kernel for InfraRed remote and servo handling
3 24 servo channels
4 Up to 8 I/O interfaces for add-on hardware
5 8KB flash for more than 300 user motions
1 Can play 121 user-defined motion routines
2 Control up to four RoboPhilo units independently
1 Charger can be used for motion programming while charging the battery to extend the time of play.
2 Provides regulated 5V DC and unregulated 6-7.2V DC for add-on hardware
1 Servo fine tuning
2 Create motion routines
3 Poses can be reused by other routines to save storage
4 You can use a PC to run the create motions step by step
5 Download motions and settings to the RoboPhilo
6 Motions can be shared by other users by exporting the routines to a motion file
7 Motion routines can be easily imported
The World Models Mfg. Co. Ltd., Distributed by AirBorne Models
www.airborne-models.com, (925) 371-0922