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The SmartTripod Robot
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A robotic tripod built with Microsoft RDS and Parallax's EDDIE platform
A robotic tripod built with Microsoft RDS and Parallax's EDDIE platform

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The SmartTripod got blurbed in this this month's Popular Mechanics magazine. Pick up your copy wherever fine magazines are sold. :-)
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Popular Mechanics - Sept 2012
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A nice write-up about the SmartTripod and the 2012 Bay Area Maker Faire in the recent issue of Robot Magazine. The article itself isn't available online, but if you're a subscriber, check it out in the September/October issue!

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A number of people have asked about the exact parts I used to create the SmartTripod, so I've compiled them on this Google Docs spreadsheet. Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions about building your own or if you'd like to use the software I wrote.

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One of the challenges in building a robot on the Microsoft .Net stack these days is the plethora of architectural options available. Microsoft's Robotics Group of course offers their Robotics Developer Studio, at the core of which is their Concurrency and Coordination Runtime (CCR) and Decentralized Software Services (DSS). This is what I used for the SmartTripod prototype. CCR handles the multi-threaded plumbing and DSS glues all the various pieces of the application together.

But there are other viable (and perhaps even preferable) technologies available now in .Net, including the Task Parallel Library (TPL), which does a lot of what CCR does and with (arguably) a lighter learning curve.

So how does one decide which technology to go with? The switching costs, even within the .Net world, can be high, so it's a decision not to be made frivolously.

Greg Shirakyan of Microsoft's Robotics Group provided some great tips on this very subject in a recent post on the Robotics Forums. Check it out: http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/roboticsccr/thread/76395732-fd83-4d5c-8c69-f1647efa2c36

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A really nice article about the SmartTripod in +USA TODAY by my friend +Rhonda Abrams 

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The "Glamour Shots" we took of the SmartTripd were actually made in my backyard at about 10:00 on a Saturday night (my son played the role of photographer).
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Engadget did a blurb on the Robotics@Home contest. Cool!

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Microsoft posted their list of Robotics@Home winners on their blog yesterday. I've never received a giant "novelty" check before--it was like winning the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes!

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Wow! What a whirlwind weekend for the SmartTripod and I! Started off Friday night at a dinner for the Microsoft Robotics@Home finalists (of whom I was one), where I learned I was the Grand Prize winner! That was especially thrilling, considering the company I was keeping with the other contestants who had done really great work. I'll post more about that in a few days.

Then, the SmartTripod and I headed to San Mateo's Maker Faire, where we got to hang out in the Microsoft Robotics booth along with a number of other EDDIE-based robots. I met a ton of Maker Faire attendees and chatted with a number of the Microsoft Robotics engineers, who are all extremely passionate about robotics and ridiculously smart (I learned several great tips which will soon make their way into the SmartTripod). And I got to meet a few of EDDIE's "parents" from Parallax, including Jessica Uelmen.

I also got to meet a few of my "maker idols", such as R2D2 builder Chris James (http://www.artoo-detoo.net/) and WALL-E builder Mike Senna (http://sennaswalle.blogspot.com/).

Hope to get some photos and video posted later (if I can find some--I didn't do a very good job of photographing any of this weekend's events myself). Now, finally, after several months of late nights and weekends, I'll hopefully get a good night's sleep!

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See the EDDIE and the SmartTripod at the Maker Faire this weekend! We'll be in the Microsoft Robotics booth in the Expo Hall.
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