Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween - with a bit of engineering

We are engineers - even when it comes to pumpkins. Seventeen pieces of art, including a virtual one, were entered into Quanser 2009 Pumpkin Challenge by our engineers.
Happy Halloween from Quanser!

1st prize for Julio's Corona Extra

2nd prize - Herve's masterpiece

3rd prize - Amin's MacQuanser

3rd prize - Max is haunted by pirates

3rd prize - Lisa can always see the bright side

Special Marketing award for Patrick's Q

And the Engineering Award for Derek


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

QUARC: Third-Party Device Support

In addition to being able to access hardware via Hardware-In-the-Loop (HIL) cards by using the familiar Simulink environment, as described in previous blog post, QuaRC also allows users to interact directly with third-party devices in a real-time fashion.

QUARC supports a wide variety of third-party-vendor devices, which can be categorized essentially into 3 main device families:

  1. Sensors & Human Interface Devices (HIDs)

  2. Haptic input devices

  3. Robot arms

This support goes above and beyond Quanser’s very own devices as well as the standard PC peripherals, like keyboards, mice, game controllers (i.e., joysticks), or force-feedback game controllers, that QUAC also supports.

Also the nature of the interface used by any one of the QUARC-supported devices to connect to a QUARC target system (e.g., Windows 32-bit PC, QNX PC, Linux Gumstix Verdex) is almost as diverse as the types of devices supported. The interfaces used include, but are not limited to, USB, FireWire (IEEE 1394), serial (e.g., RS-232, TTL, SPI), PS2, and network (e.g., TCP/IP, UDP, ARCNET, bluetooth).

We are often asked what the actual devices currently supported by QUARC exactly are. Even though this list is continuously growing, the following summarizes the third-party devices to which Simulink-compatible blocks are offered by our upcoming version of QUARC, QUARC 2.0.

However, a device supported under one QuaRC target (e.g., 32-bit Windows) might not be supported for another QuaRC target (e.g., Linux), due to, for example, connectivity or third-party driver compatibility issues. Any QuaRC target restriction is specified in-between square brackets below.

QUARC 2.0 supports the following sensors and Human Interface Devices (HIDs).

QUARC 2.0 also supports the following haptic (i.e., position sensing and force feedback) input devices.

QUARC supports the following multiple-DOF serial robot arms and robotic devices as well. By doing so, QUARC makes these robots Open Architecture (OA), which is to say that their Cartesian or joint position or rate commands can be individually set, as configured in your Simulink diagram, together with any customized advanced robotic control schemes.

QUARC is designed to meet the continually-increasing demand for interactive systems. For example, the power of QUARC is really harnessed when users easily couple one of its supported haptic input devices to one of its supported robot arms and quickly setup, in a Simulink diagram, a fully customizable teleoperation system.

Please stay tuned for announcements on additional third-party device support as well as for added QUARC support for Quanser’s very own new and exciting products, like the novel Quanser USB-Qbit and QPID boards.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Week at the MICCAI Conference

I was in the UK last week where the Imperial College of London was hosting the 12th International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention (MICCAI 2009). This is where clinicians, computer scientists , bioscientists, , engineers, and other researchers gather every year to share their innovations in the field of medical robotics, medical image processing and computer assisted intervention. Beside the major focus on advances of image acquisition and computation at the MICCAI conference, robotic assisted surgery has attracted huge attention in the recent years. Robots can provide the surgeons with unprecedented precision, dexterity, and minimally invasive techniques. They can increase the quality of the operation while reducing the time of the operation and patient recovery. Image information from a wide range of sensor data can be integrated into such systems to equip the surgeon with enhanced vision capabilities and feedback system.

From Left : Professor Guang-Zhong Yang (Imperial College), Amin Abdossalami (Quanser), Keith Blanchet(Quanser).

Quanser’s great expertise in haptics and teleoperation has resulted in the design and development of such well-known general purpose robotic manipulators as High Definition Haptic Device HD2 and Haptic Wand. At MICCAI 2009, Quanser was invited to present its latest haptic devices, the HD2. This system has a high accuracy position measurement and a relatively large workspace. It can provide the operator with precise force feedbacks ranging from the reaction force of a brain tissue to the stiffness of a tooth. In addition, the device end-effector can be easily modified for a versatile range of applications. All these characteristics make the HD2 capable enough to be used for such applications as virtual training simulators, collaborative haptics, rehabilitation, or it can even act as either a master or slave robot in a telesurgery setup. Using our real-time software QuaRC we designed some surgical simulations to demonstrate the capabilities of our HD2 and its programming software. Quanser’s HD2 along with its real-time software QuaRC and our other booth material attracted a lot of interest from both clinicians and engineers during the MICCAI conference.

Quanser Booth in MICCAI 2009

Below, our blog followers can read about some presentations from other companies participating in the exhibition.

One of the FDA approved systems which is extensively being used for robotic surgery is the da Vinci made by Intuitive. In the following video a second generation of the da Vinci systems with three surgical arms is presented.


SenseGraphics was another exhibiting company in the MICCAI. Below, you can see their presentation of their 3D display setup.


In the following video Dr. Rodriguez from Imperial College is presenting part of their fascinating research in the field of developing new brain probes.


In the following video you can see some interesting 3D spatial tracking systems developed by NDI.


And last but not least are some cool products from INITION in the field of 3D displays.