Monday, November 10, 2008

Revolution in Rehabilitation

We are just finessing the details of our presence at MEDICA 2008 - one of the biggest medical tradeshows and I just realized we never posted anything about the Rehabilitation Robot on the blog.

The Rehabilitation Robot combines Quanser's robotic and haptic technologies with an intelligent graphical computer interface to treat post-stroke patient in need of limb rehabilitation. The robot replicates traditional rehabilitation exercises through customized, interactive games. As the patient's mobility improves, the device detects the progress and adjusts the level of resistance.
Compared to a traditional rehabilitation, where a therapist works one-on-one with the patient, the Rehabilitation Robot allows the therapist to oversee up to five patients. Patients can even exercise in the comfort of their own home. The treatment can be therefore delivered more quickly and with less costs.
The Rehabilitation Robot is currently undergoing clinical trials at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

- Zuzana-

UAV Demo video

As promised, here is a video from our snowy Demo day. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

UAV Demo Day

As part of our ongoing UAV project, we set a date for a mid-term demonstration including several UAVs and an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV). A large group of people showed up, including DRDC program director Ken Hitchmough and scientist Camille-Allain Rabbath, Hugh Liu, Professor at University of Toronto with several graduate students, and an ample team of Quanser employees. Unfortunately, we picked a day when the weather was exceptionally un-cooperative. Heavy snowfall and high winds had been building up and we caught by unseasonably cold snowy October weather. Nonetheless, our guests braved the weather and we were determined to show them something interesting.

The snow wasn't so bad, but the high winds prevented us from flying the helicopter, and when we tried to fly our fixed-wing Zagi UAVs they had a tough time fighting the winds. We did, however, get the UGV to drive around. The UGV can be driven using a joystick, or in this case it drives autonomously to a given GPS location. Its on-board GPS sensor is used by the on-board controller to steer and drive the UGV to the desired position, in this case a blue tarp.

Had the weather cooperated, we would use the fixed-wing UAVs to fly a search pattern, using on-board cameras to find the blue tarp target. Image processing blocks scan the images in real time and look for the target based on size and color. These UAVs then signal a helicopter, which goes in at a lower altitude to verify the target's position using its on-board camera. Once the target position is verified, the helicopter transmits its location to the UGV so it can drive to the target. All of these tasks are completed autonomously with each vehicle's controller running on-board the vehicle itself. The operators can sit at the base station and track each vehicle's progress, but when everything goes well we just sit back and watch it all happen.

Overall, we gave it our best despite the weather, and it was a great opportunity to "show and tell" our work. The next time we schedule a demo it will be summer - but before that a video from our cold demo day will come.

I converted to QUARC!

I used to use WinCon... a lot! Now I completely switched to QuaRC, and it's all for the better. QuaRC is a brand new software completely designed from ground up so that it can take advantage of all the latest technologies. Of course, we learned a great deal from our many years of using and developing WinCon. Therefore, QuaRC is not the new version of WinCon! It simply replaces it in a much more flexible and powerful way.

For instance, QUARC can already be run on multiple types of operating systems and CPUs. Also QUARC is really geared toward running the most advanced and efficient real-time controllers. This is, for example, shown by its inherent multi-threaded design which makes it ideal for implementing true multi-rate systems (one thread per rate) and blocking I/O and/or communication channels (in separate threads). This is a whole new level above what WinCon does.

Contrary to WinCon, QUARC is fully and seamlessly integrated with Simulink® and particularly when using external mode. For example, this allows QUARC and hence the generated real-time controller to support right from the Simulink model online parameter tuning, dynamic signal plotting (e.g., in Floating Scopes, Scopes, or Displays), model referencing, MAT-file logging, data streaming, and scope triggering.

Communication is another of QUARC's great strengths. It follows a very generic and user-customizable paradigm, where for example switching from one communication protocol to another is just a matter of changing one initialization string in the whole model, or where selecting blocking or non-blocking mode is done from a drop-down menu.

When compared to WinCon, accessing hardware has also been completely reviewed and improved by also using a generic scheme for all of QUARC's supported data acquisition cards. A lot more cards are supported and switching from one card to another is done in just a couple of mouse clicks, without replacing any block in the model. QUARC also interfaces to more open-architecture robots, as well as other devices like grippers, (FireWire or USB) cameras, and, last but not least, the Nintendo® Wii Remote!

Finally, the QUARC documentation is extensive and fully integrated with the MATLAB help. It gets new users started quickly by means of various demos and tutorials. There is even a WinCon-To-QUARC migration section.

QUARC is now in full swing with its 1.2 version coming out in a few weeks. So stay tuned for upcoming new features and exciting applications.