What is a Robot in IITK

I am Deepak Gangwar, a senior undergraduate student from Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Kanpur. The following blog contains my journey, interests and ambitions in Robotics and related technical fields besides the opportunities in these fields in IITK. There might be more blogs to come however probability of it happening is nearly negligible. Most of the people are eager to know about robots and computers and how they function. I was no different. During my orientation in IITK, I saw many club projects but a big robot attracted my attention the most because it seemed to me the coolest and most complicated one. Later I came to know that it was built for an international competition by an undergraduate student team of institute named Team ROBOCON (now known as Team IGVC). So I appeared in recruitment procedure and got selected in the team (Still surprised! How? :D). As part of the team, through the years, I have learnt a lot about electronics and robotics. In the meantime, I finally owned an Android smartphone so I developed interest in Linux and Android. That is how I became android and robotics enthusiast during my very first semester at IITK. I had my teammates and seniors to guide me in robotics, while on the other hand I had to learn about android/linux on my own. I am still a part of the team and learning new things in both areas continuously.

In this part I am listing the various opportunities to learn about it in IITK. First of all there are 2 teams which are developing autonomous vehicles Team IGVC (Intelligent Ground Vehicle Challenge) Team AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) Work of both the teams is research oriented with a well defined final goal. Both team deals with computer vision, sensor fusion, localization etc. Generally the recruitment is done on the basis of a written test followed by interviews. For any specific detail, contact present team members. Apart from teams, you can learn and sharpen these skills in the following clubs also Robotics Club Electronics Club One should attend all the useful lectures and workshops organised by the clubs. It helps in making a foundation of knowledge. Clubs are doing some long term project e.g. HURO. The process of recruitment is similar to teams and depends on the project. If you want to try robotics and don’t want to commit to a team or long term project then you should do short term projects in clubs.

What is Robot?

According to wikipedia “A robot is a machine —especially one programmable by a computer— capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically.” So what hardware is necessary for a robot? Generally the main components of a robot are following - Mechanical Structure Processing Power (Computers and/or Microcontrollers) Sensors Camera GPS Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) Range sensors Application Specific sensors Above sensor list is for a robot which can locomote in an indoor/outdoor setting. I will not talk about mechanical structure as it is not my area of interest. Apart from a mechanical structure, all the required components are easily available to everyone now a days in the form of a smartphone. It has camera, GPS, IMU and CPU. So the mechanical structure along with a smartphone can complete a robot (Here I am including actuator drivers in mechanical structure). So why are people not doing it? Actually people are doing it. Our Robotics club has also started a project this year for the same. Google launched a R&D project to include even range sensors (Depth camera) in a smartphone. The project is named Tango. You can even buy Tango enabled smartphones from Nvidia, Lenovo and Asus. The main motivation of this approach is that smartphones are cheap, easily available. They have a decent computing power with a low power consumption. The only drawback that I can think is that you can not alter the positions of sensors. In some cases this can be very harmful e.g. self driving car. But for learning with less cost it is suitable to use an android phone as you will not have to pay for sensors and processor. In the never ending war between Android and so called ‘revolutionary’, I hope it is crystal clear which team I support!

As I am fond of robotics and android both, I want to merge these two into one so that I may work on both in my limited available time. I would like to work on porting ROS on android. It has been ported to arm devices running debian/ubuntu based distros already. It is even supported for the most loved android phone till date, Nexus 5 but running Ubuntu Touch in spite of android. I want to run ROS in android so that the we don’t have to compromise much while using a smartphone in robot as described above. I have no idea right now whether it is feasible idea. But if anyone is interested in this or has any insight, contact me.