Hacking a rowing Robot

Robots are cool right? and the coolest robot around is Nao Robot right? and wearable technology is cool right? So what would be better than a Hackathon themed around interfacing Nao to some interesting wearable technology?  I couldn't think of anything cooler so when I saw exactly that I signed up straight away.

Originally I thought it would be interesting to do something museum related, but as I'd already spent a day with Nao and museum people exploring how Nao could be used in a Museum I decided to look at something different.

Recently I'd used blender to design a little version of the Rowing boat that is going to be used by Sarah Weldon when she attempts to become the first woman to row solo around the U.K in 2016.  I thought it would be interesting to think what if Sarah could take a Nao on board with her and how it could be used.

The day started off with an introduction to Nao, the devices that were available to interface with and a good introduction to programming Nao using  Choregraphe and python.

I teamed up with Sam Ahern who I'd previously met at a Flossie event   and is working with Lego Mindstorms for her MSc, and Alan Rushforth who brought a Nao robot for use to uses and much needed knowledge of C++.

Getting started we managed to get a Thalmic Labs Myo armband  and a  pulse oximeter.  I started playing around with the Myo armband and Sam started on the Oximeter.

With the help of Alan and his C++ skills we managed to get data out of the armband and write a python program to roughly detect a rowing motion, based on the roll axis of the device.   Sam had been fighting with her new laptop and the oximeter so we werent able to use that.

On day 2 we  put together our demo.  Sam worked on making Nao move to indicate if the strokes per minutes that you were rowing was too high,too low or just about right.  With a bit of fine tuning and practise it worked pretty well, right up to the point we had to demo it.

Nao sitting
Our Nao robot for the weekend

It was really great to watch what the other teams had worked on.  My favourite was the group who had used Nao to treat people with Sleep Apnoea using the Oximeter to detect the sleep problem and Nao to either tap the sleeping person to take them out of the state or direct a person to move the sleeping person to a better position.

It was a really great weekend and I learnt so much.  It was all about thinking of novel  ideas of how Nao and robots could be used.  I could really imagine Nao been taken on long solo voyages to act as both a companion and as an intelligent dashboard, setting rowing pace by interpreting sensor data from the rower or sailer , taking data feeds from GPS and radio to warn of obstacles and act as a mini cox. A robot has been taken to the International Space Station so maybe when Sarah is ready to depart on her expedition around the U.K Nao will have got his sea legs and be ready to accompany her.

If you want to learn more about Sarah and her epic row around the U.K go to her website Oceans Project  and follow her on youtube 

To find out more about Nao look on the Aldebaran robotics website 

And a big thank you to Carl Clement and everyone at UKNAO , and QMUL  for making the great hackathon  possible.






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