Humanoid Robot Nao Learns to Drive Its Own Car


Photo: RobotsLab

This little robot is the proud owner of a fancy new electric BMW Z4.

Robots have proven to be not that great at driving cars. Robot cars are just fine at driving themselves, but that’s much different than putting a robot (humanoid or otherwise) behind the wheel of a vehicle designed for humans.

The very fancy and expensive robots at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials had a tough time trying to make it work, but for Aldebaran’s humanoid Nao, it’s a cinch, with his brand new little kid (or little robot) sized electric BMW Z4 from RobotsLab, a seller of educational robots based in San Francisco, Calif.

Nao is driving the car completely autonomously. Or, it might be more accurate to say that the car is sort of driving itself, relying on a laser rangefinder mounted underneath to avoid obstacles and send steering commands to the robot.

However, the point of this setup is that it’s a platform that you can modify to research (or teach) whatever you want, from SLAM algorithms to vision-based obstacle detection and avoidance. The guts of the BMW are based around an Arduino, which makes it very easy to work with, and as with all of the rest of the RobotsLab stuff, it includes a standards-aligned curriculum that integrates easily into existing STEM programs.

RobotsLab is now the exclusive North American reseller for NAO, and you can get a NAO V5 Evolution from them for US $7,990. Adding on the car will run you an extra $2,000, but using the code “TechCrunchie2014″ knocks $2,000 off the total price, making the car free. Not a bad deal, I’d say.

Source: spectrum.ieee.org / Evan Ackerman

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