DIY Robot Roams High-Tech Event

Dave Shinsel and his robot Loki

Winner of SyFy Channel’s Robot Combat League brings homemade autonomous talking robot to IDF13.

Loki the robot

Amid aisles of slick enterprise IT demos, a homemade talking robot drew a big crowd as it rolled through the exhibition hall at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. Introducing himself as Loki, the laptop-powered robot built by Intel software engineer Dave Shinsel would paused to speak with attendees, shake their hands and pick up objects from the floor.

Loki uses a 3-D sensor to see objects in his environment,” Shinsel said. “He has stereo cameras for eyes. He tries to examine the world around him and make sense of it. He builds a model in his computer of what the world looks like.”

Earlier this year, Shinsel teamed up with his daughter Amber, who also works in the Intel Software and Services Group, and won the $100,000 grand prize on the SyFy reality series ‘Robot Combat League.’ On the show, the father-daughter duo piloted 8-foot-tall, 1,000-pound robots to victory in a cage match, but Shinsel brought a much smaller, 4-foot tall, 80-pound Loki to IDF13 to engage with in a more user-centric mission.

“Intel is focused on perceptual computing and new user interfaces and a robot is all about that,” said Shinsel. “How do you interface with something that doesn’t have a keyboard and doesn’t have a mouse? It’s something completely different.”

The laptop at the center of Loki’s aluminum body provides a display screen. It also serves as his brain, which allows Loki to function autonomously. The robot uses sensors and cameras to calculate relative distance to objects and pressure sensors in its hands to detect when it has picked up something.

Loki uses SLAM (simultaneous location and mapping) software to determine where he is in an environment, but the crowded and unfamiliar trade show floor posed challenges for Loki’s sensors and voice recognition. As a safeguard, Shinsel used his smartphone to override Loki’s autonomous controls.

“I wrote an Android app for my phone that I can use to take over control of the robots and disable certain functions,” said Shinsel.

Loki robot built by Dave Shinsel

Loki is merely the latest robot that Shinsel has built. It’s a hobby he’s been pursuing for much of his almost-two-decade career with Intel and in 2010 he was named a “Backyard Genius” by Popular Mechanics. Initially, like many of Shinsel’s previous robots, Loki used a PIC processor programmed using the CCS “C” compiler, but earlier this year he replaced the PIC with an Arduino microcontroller.

“He [Loki] is a good example of innovation working through different design principles,” said Shinsel. “His original design was actually very different than where we ended up. I kept looking at iterating on the design and coming up with new ideas.”

Shinsel took Loki for a ride in a pedicab while in San Francisco, which attracted quite a bit of attention.

“It’s the kind of thing you see in the movies, but you don’t see in real life,” said Shinsel. “I think it’s inspiring for a lot of people and it gets kids excited about technology.

DIY Robot Roams High-Tech Event

Dave Shinsel and his robot Loki

Winner of SyFy Channel’s Robot Combat League brings homemade autonomous talking robot to IDF13.

Loki the robot

Amid aisles of slick enterprise IT demos, a homemade talking robot drew a big crowd as it rolled through the exhibition hall at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. Introducing himself as Loki, the laptop-powered robot built by Intel software engineer Dave Shinsel would paused to speak with attendees, shake their hands and pick up objects from the floor.

Loki uses a 3-D sensor to see objects in his environment,” Shinsel said. “He has stereo cameras for eyes. He tries to examine the world around him and make sense of it. He builds a model in his computer of what the world looks like.”

Earlier this year, Shinsel teamed up with his daughter Amber, who also works in the Intel Software and Services Group, and won the $100,000 grand prize on the SyFy reality series ‘Robot Combat League.’ On the show, the father-daughter duo piloted 8-foot-tall, 1,000-pound robots to victory in a cage match, but Shinsel brought a much smaller, 4-foot tall, 80-pound Loki to IDF13 to engage with in a more user-centric mission.

“Intel is focused on perceptual computing and new user interfaces and a robot is all about that,” said Shinsel. “How do you interface with something that doesn’t have a keyboard and doesn’t have a mouse? It’s something completely different.”

The laptop at the center of Loki’s aluminum body provides a display screen. It also serves as his brain, which allows Loki to function autonomously. The robot uses sensors and cameras to calculate relative distance to objects and pressure sensors in its hands to detect when it has picked up something.

Loki uses SLAM (simultaneous location and mapping) software to determine where he is in an environment, but the crowded and unfamiliar trade show floor posed challenges for Loki’s sensors and voice recognition. As a safeguard, Shinsel used his smartphone to override Loki’s autonomous controls.

“I wrote an Android app for my phone that I can use to take over control of the robots and disable certain functions,” said Shinsel.

Loki robot built by Dave Shinsel

Loki is merely the latest robot that Shinsel has built. It’s a hobby he’s been pursuing for much of his almost-two-decade career with Intel and in 2010 he was named a “Backyard Genius” by Popular Mechanics. Initially, like many of Shinsel’s previous robots, Loki used a PIC processor programmed using the CCS “C” compiler, but earlier this year he replaced the PIC with an Arduino microcontroller.

“He [Loki] is a good example of innovation working through different design principles,” said Shinsel. “His original design was actually very different than where we ended up. I kept looking at iterating on the design and coming up with new ideas.”

Shinsel took Loki for a ride in a pedicab while in San Francisco, which attracted quite a bit of attention.

“It’s the kind of thing you see in the movies, but you don’t see in real life,” said Shinsel. “I think it’s inspiring for a lot of people and it gets kids excited about technology.