Robot Arm at Applied Minds

Around 2005, I was offered a Job at Applied Minds in Burbank California. This was pretty much a dream job for me because the pay was good and I got to play with robots all day once again. The first thing that I was tasked with was to make a proof of concept for a project that they were hoping to pitch to Northrup Grumman. The idea was that you could have a robot that you would be able to place into any car to make it a remotely-controlled car. A remote operator would be able to drive the car without having to know where all of the controls were located. They would just use a standardized set of controls and the robot would take care of things. I started out with an off-the shelf robot arm that used some strong hobby servos to move around. I wrote code for the MSP430 processor that controlled the servos using inverse kinematics and optimal-path planning. The setup was that an operator could push buttons and flick a switch on a control panel and the robot would do the same things on its control panel. To make things more interesting, the robot’s control panel was movable in real-time so you could try to mess with the robot by moving it while it was performing its actions. It was pretty rare that you could cause the robot to miss a button or switch though. I tuned things so that it moved pretty quickly.

Robot Brigade Logo