September 30, 2013
Do Robots Dream of Real-time, Embedded Processing?
As the students at the University of Missouri (aka “Mizzou”) return to school, some are hard at work in the Vision Guided and Intelligent Robotics lab, or, as they call it, “ViGIR.” They are working on computer vision, pattern recognition, robotics, and—of course—robots that can play soccer. These students are studying embedded systems: the tiny bits of programming which comprise the mind of the machine.
In one lab, robot arms are tossing tubes at each other and defending their goals from the opponent’s tosses. In programming terms, this means they must process images from their camera “eyes” in real-time, execute algorithms to find the 4-inch tubes that could land anywhere in the zone they are defending, and then maneuver a robot arm to pick up a tube and throw it back to their opponents. To succeed, they need software that can perform its calculations faster than their opponents can throw things at them.
The challenges of a soccer tournament are similar to the game of toss, but with the added dimension that all of the computing is done on-board robots that are darting around the playing field while defending their goals. Such systems have to handle real-time event input and process it during the milliseconds that are available to make decisions. Storing and manipulating data is critical in this loop, and FairCom’s technology is a perfect fit for these platforms.
Evaldo de Oliveira of FairCom visited electrical and computer engineering Professor Gui DeSouza’s embedded systems class to explain the realities of providing efficient data access in their robotic creations. This seminar is part of FairCom’s ongoing relationship with Mizzou Engineering. No stranger to the MU campus: FairCom founder, Bill Fairman, is a former MU professor who still applies his in-depth knowledge to the very core of the product. FairCom is no stranger to embedded systems: hundreds of customers are using its technology aboard devices and equipment worldwide.
The software created in the ViGIR lab must run on a system that will fit on-board an autonomous system, be it a small robot, a miniature helicopter, or an intelligent wheelchair. The partnership between FairCom and Prof. DeSouza’s laboratory aims to research the evolution of data access technologies for such systems. They face the challenge of squeezing high-performance and ultra-flexibility into a small footprint.
The seminar explored the ways c‑treeACE allows data access to be tailored exactly to the needs of the system. Running in the industry’s smallest footprint, c‑treeACE can provide low-overhead, real-time access to the data while at the same time providing high-reliability. FairCom’s software has proven itself in embedded systems found in everything from gas pumps to printers—it has even orbited earth. Expect to see FairCom coming soon to a robotic soccer field.
We would like to extend a big “Thank You” to the attendees of the seminar—both human and otherwise. And of course to Prof. DeSouza and the University of Missouri College of Engineering.