Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quanser Stream API: Powerful and Flexible Communication

The Quanser Stream API, on which QUARC Stream blocks are based, offers a flexible and communication-protocol-indent framework. It allows to carry out standard communication not only between QUARC models, but also between a QUARC model and an external third-party application (e.g. graphical user interface - GUI), or even between two external third-party applications. This feature is of great importance in various research applications where software integration, design and integration of GUI and distributed control are needed.

The Stream API is independent of the development environment and is currently fully implemented in C/C++, .NET languages, MATLAB and LabVIEW. It can be readily extended to other languages and environments as required. This makes any Quanser Stream protocol accessible from and to external applications.

The QUARC communication framework, using the Quanser Stream API, follows the well-established client/server communication mechanism implemented in either a blocking I/O mode (i.e. asynchronous I/O in a separate thread) or non-blocking I/O mode (i.e. synchronous I/O in the model current thread). The Quanser Stream communication framework is open and structured to readily accommodate and integrate new communication protocols as required. At present, the Quanser Stream API has communication protocols available for the operating systems that QUARC can target, such as Windows (32-bit XP and Vista), QNX and Linux ARM (gumstix). The Stream API also allows for switching from one communication protocol to another by only changing the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) string defining the new protocol to be used. The rest of the blocks or functions used in the communication remain untouched!

QPID - A New Generation of Data Acquisition Boards

Quanser's QPID is the new generation of PCI and PCIe Data Acquisition Boards that brings researchers more functionality and features. A new personality is developed using FPGA technology, offering a higher real-time performance. Based on the National Instruments RIO technology, QPID comes with a customized terminal board for easy access to signals.

Leveraging Quanser's control development expertise, QPID Data Acquisition Board comes with a pre-loaded "Quanser personality". Use the QPID with Quanser's terminal board to get 8 analog inputs, 8 analog outputs, 8 encoders (with encoder velocities), 56 DIO, external ADC triggering, RTSI (multicard ADC trigerring), external interrupt, fuse good indicator and SPI with 1 dedicated slave select.

Stay tuned for more details!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ontario Premier Chooses Quanser to Host his Press Conference

Quanser's expertise and cutting-edge robotic and haptic technology with applications in various medical fields won our company more praise recently. Quanser was given the honor of hosting Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty as he announced a Trade Mission to Israel slated for May 2010. On February 11, 2010, PremierMcGuinty and the delegation of Ontario and Israeli government officials visited Quanser for this special event.

The mission will focus on building healthcare industry and high-tech sector partnerships with Israeli companies. Quanser is a great example of how Ontario businesses can benefit from successful collaboration with Israeli companies in the life sciences sector. Since 2007, Quanser has been collaborating with Simbionix from Israel, a company that develops interactive computerized endoscopic medical training simulators and advanced clinical visualization systems for minimally invasive surgery.

The press conferences was preceded by a tour of Quanser that gave government officials a chance to try Quanser's cutting-edge technology.

Highlights from the tour and the Press Conference hosted by Quanser

Special guest at the Press Conference - Her Excellency Miriam Ziv, Israel's Ambassador to Canada is greeted by Paul Gilbert, Quanser's CEO and Jacob Apkarian, Quanser's Founder and CTO.

Under the guidance of Jacob Apkarian, Quanser's Founder and CTO, Dalton McGuinty performs his first teleoperation - on a banana.

Sandra Pupatello, Ontario's Economic Development and Trade Minister discussing Quanser's haptic needle insertion surgical simulator with Paul Gilbert, Quanser's CEO.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty experiences one of the many applications of haptic technology. Here Quanser's Hexapod allows the driver to "feel the ride".

Remote signing technology, tested by Monte Kwinter, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, can be used by governments and legislatures to transfer a "pen and ink" signature in real-time from anywhere in the world.

At the Press Conference hosted by Quanser, Premier McGuinty announced the trade mission to Israel to "strengthen cultural and commercial ties" between Ontario companies like Quanser and Israeli companies in the life sciences sector, "while creating jobs for Ontarians".

Special guests at the event (from right to left): Ted Sokolsky, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto; Amir Gissin, Israeli Consul General, Toronto; Miriam Ziv, Israeli Ambassador to Canada

Shaking hands with the Quanser team - the Premier was truly impressed by the innovative work we do.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Grade 8 Girls Learn about Quanser at Electronics Workshop

Every year, Blair McKay, the electronics teacher at Listowel District Secondary School, invites Grade 8 students to his custom-designed electronics lab - eLab. During the eDays - Electronics Days - the students can find out more about electronics and robotics and engage in hands-on activities.

The eDays are held separately for boys and girls. For the girls' eDay, the guest speakers are all women who have exciting careers in electrical engineering, computer engineering and mechatronics. I have been a guest speaker at eDays since 2004. This year, I talked to the girls about how much fun I have working at Quanser, and showed them videos of our control experiments and research equipment. This video of teleoperation on a banana was a real hit!

The workshops are clearly successful at attracting young women to take electronics in high school. Listowel District Secondary School typically has several full classes of girls in Grade 9 electronics!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Teaching Control Theory to Grade 6?

Well, not exactly. But Jacob and I did have the pleasure to visit the Bayview Glendale Prep School and introduce them to the concept of Myoelectric Prosthesis. Jacob gave a great presentation about electricity in our body and how it can be used to make artificial limbs move. We had the QNET Byomedical Board (upcoming release) on hand and used it demonstrate to the students how EMG can be used to drive a motor. Students could wrap their forearm with the electromyograph and by contracting their muscles, make a small motor move. We also had an actual prosthetic limb that was previously used by 3 year old boy.

Students also got the chance to run the QNET VTOL with a joystick. We let the students experience the difference in controlling the 1 DOF helicopter when they do it by themselves, i.e. open-loop, and when they get help from the computer, i.e. closed-loop. Although they understood that it was easier to control with the PC, we all agreed that it’s not as much fun!

In closing, this audience was full of energy and had lots of great questions. Some were more hardware-oriented and asked about the device components. Others wondered what software was used to run the systems.

Jacob and I had a great time and would like to thank everyone at Bayview Glen for their enthusiasm.