Getting caught up

The IEEE ENCS Humanoid Robot team has been working hard on KEN the humanoid robot, but we haven’t done a great job of keeping up with our website.  To catch you up on all that’s happened this year, here’s a quick rundown of progress thus far in 2015.

  • KEN was first presented to the public on March 6, 2015 at the IEEE RoboResearch conference in Charlotte, NC.  The team worked hard in the months leading up to this event to go from just a collection of ideas to a working robot that ran all day without crashing.
  • Following the RoboResearch event, we embarked on some hardware upgrades.  The old MacMini’s just didn’t have the power to run all the processing, so we were having to offload processing to laptops and off board CPU’s.  To make it easier to take KEN around to demos, we needed to get all the processing on board and improve the startup and shutdown software.  We purchased an I7 motherboard with 16GB RAM and a solid state hard drive.  We also wrote an Android app to provide a simple interface for starting and stopping the system.  With these upgrades, KEN is much more self-contained.
  • KEN’s first event after the upgrades was a joint show with The Forge Initiative on July 18, 2015, at The Underground in Durham, NC.  This was our first event where the student members of The Forge Initiative were able to take the lead in demonstrating KEN to the public.
  • The next big event for KEN was the July 25, 2015, IEEE Family Day at Jordan Lake.  Many people got to meet and interact with KEN under the picnic pavilion.  This was the first time we had attempted to operate KEN with only a cellphone WiFi hot-spot for Internet access.  It worked great.
  • A few of us took KEN down to Charlotte, NC again on August 20, 2015.  We had the privilege of presenting the project to the IEEE section meeting there, where we received enormous interest from the crowd, especially the students.  For this event, KEN was upgraded with the ability to present facts about himself, so that he actually did a portion of the presentation in question/answer.  Unfortunately, KEN’s neck failed after this event, and he had to undergo surgery to reattach his head before going out again.
  • KEN’s latest event was another joint event with The Forge Initiative at Marbles Children’s museum in downtown Raleigh, NC.  KEN had the chance to meet and interact with about 170 people at this event.  The background noise in the room was so loud that it overwhelmed his speech recognition ability.  He got a lot of, “He’s creepy!” compliments, though.