Monday, June 28, 2010

Qball UAV flies at the ASEE Quanser Innovation Hub

I have just returned from the 2010 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. This year, Quanser decided to do something a little different from the usual tradeshow booths and exhibits. In addition to our usual booth, we went all out and built a fully-functional indoor lab for flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Quanser's Innovation Hub was dedicated (this year) to demonstrating our Unmanned Vehicle Systems (UVS) Laboratory. The UVS Lab includes the Qball UAV, Qbot UGV, OptiTrack camera localization, and ground station with QUARC real-time control software.

Before the show even started people were lining up to take a look at the Qball flying around its enclosure. Anyone walking by while the Qball whirred and flew around immediately stopped and stared. And when we told people they would have a chance to actually take the controls and fly the Qball during our hourly demos, they got really excited.

Although we didn't have the time to give everybody a try at flying the Qball, dozens of people ranging from grade schoolers to professors got a chance to try it out. It was a really great way to captivate the younger audience members and get them excited about engineering.

Part of the demo was our own technology demonstrations to highlight some of the capabilities of the Qball and the UVS Lab. We got to show some of the nimble flight capabilities of the Qball, its on-board sensors were used to fly over some obstacles, and we also ran fully autonomous missions.

The UVS Lab and Innovation Hub will be
going to ACC in Baltimore next, followed by the Guidance Navigation and Control Conference in Toronto. If you're going to either of these events please stop by and see the UVS Lab and try your hand at flying our Qball! Look forward to more feedback from ACC and GNC and also some videos shot at these events.


Visit Quanser this summer!

Summertime means that many people are off on vacations or traveling to conferences. One great destination is Toronto. Each summer, many of our clients and blog readers stop by this city to visit friends and family or to join peers to discuss the latest developments in their fields.

If you do stop by Toronto, let us know and we'd love to have you over for a visit. There's always something exciting to show on our tours, devices that we cannot hand-carry and demo for you when visiting universities ourselves. So stop by to take a ride on the Hexapod, to perform virtual surgery on the HD^2, or to fly Qball, our unmanned aerial vehicle. Quanser visitors rarely leave without seeing something exciting.

So, pay us a visit! We look forward to seeing you soon.

[video of our invitation for you to visit]

Shout to Sunny Ray, who was manning the camera.

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Controls Technology Presented at ACC 2010

The American Control Conference (ACC) is an annual forum where members of systems and control communities discuss new developments in theory and application of controls and Quanser will participate as always. An active member of the controls community for over 20 years and a big supporter of the annual ACC, Quanser typically demonstrates new technology for peers in academia and industry.

This year, however, we have something extra special for the conference delegates. We will demonstrate new unmanned vehicle technology for indoor research in our Innovation Hub. Delegates will have a unique opportunity to control and navigate a realistic unmanned vehicle mission. A series of 20-minute interactive demos will be presented in the Falkland Room, Harborside Floor. Mark down the times:

Wednesday, June 30 & Thursday, July 1 the demo runs at 9 am, 11.30 am, 1 pm and 3.30 pm
Friday, July 2 you can join us at 9.30 am and 11.30 am

After a live demonstration delegates are welcome to ask Quanser engineers questions about the Unmanned Vehicle Systems Lab.

But the Unmanned Vehicle Systems Lab is not the only innovative platform we will be showcasing at ACC this year. Stop by our booth in the Exhibit Area and experience haptic technology that helps neuroArm scientists in research and development of the second generation of the MRI-compatible surgical robot. You can also see a live demo of 3 DOF Gyroscope, another popular experimental platform used in control labs as far away as Australia to teach advanced control concepts.

Many universities are expanding their course offerings beyond the physical classroom or lab. That is one reason Quanser is now offering Virtual Labs. Come and try the Virtual Lab Paper Machine Experiment to share ideas on how advanced control education can benefit from this new teaching method.

Virtual Labs increase the hands-on teaching capacity for large classes, facilitate remote l
earning and student self-exploration.

And last, but not least: at ACC we'll give a glimps into what green technology will be available soon for teaching and research. ACC conference delegates will get an exclusive preview of the Wind Power Experiment. Come by and talk to Dr. Apkarian or members of our engineering team about the control challenges and green technology.

ACC delegates will get an exclusive preview of the prototype of Quanser's Wind Power Experiment.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Quanser R&D Teleoperation Setup in the Hands of NeuroArm Scientists.

Last week, I had the chance to visit great people and hi-tech facilities at the Health Research Innovation Centre at University of Calgary. This is where some best surgeons and researchers in the world are collaborating on a second generation of neuroArm, the world's first MRI-compatible surgical robot capable of both microsurgery and image guided biopsy. Using this ground breaking technology, the surgeon operates the robot from a computer workstation within the strong magnetic field of the intraoperative MRI environment. The team is led by Dr. Garnette Sutherland, professor of neurosurgery in the University of Calgary and a Calgary Health Region top neurosurgeon.

NeuroArm is one of the few robots in the world that is used for a procedure called telesurgery. In most telesurgical operations, the surgeon controls the motion of a slave robot within the patient’s body by operating a master robot and using visual feedback and image guidance.

A tele-surgical setup can provide surgeons with minimally invasive approaches and a new level of dexterity and precision. In addition, it gives them access to environments that a surgeon’s hand can not normally reach such as MRI environments or sub-millimeter regions within the patient’s body. At a more advanced level, it will allow the skills and expertise of specialized surgeons like Dr. Sutherland to be available to patients worldwide.

The complexity of the surgical operations necessitate immersive interaction with the patient’s body. It has been proven that haptic feedback along with visual feedback adds significant advantages to surgical performance. In other words, the forces sensed by the robotic tools inside patient’s body can be applied back to the surgeon through the master robot in the form of kinesthetic and tactile cues.

Adding the sense of touch to a telesurgical operation introduces many new challenges to mechatronics engineers and control scientists. As a pioneer in the field of Haptics and Teleoperation, Quanser is collaborating with neuroArm engineers in a close relationship. Mr. Alexander Greer, neuroArm project’s robotics engineer is gathering high-end robots at their advanced lab facilities. His aim is to conduct research on haptically enabled telesurgery.

Quanser Teleoperation Setup in Health Research Innovation Centre at University of Calgary

In my trip to Calgary, I delivered one of Quanser’s latest R&D teleoperation equipment. The system consists of our augmented 7DOF high definition haptic device and our latest open-architecture articulated robot. The end-effector of the robot is equipped with a custom made tool designed and manufactured at Quanser. Programming and control design is through our real-time software QUARC. The system is also equipped with high definition force torque sensing. Quanser expertise in mechatronics and control has resulted in an advanced bilateral teleoperation system with high fidelity force feedback. This system will be used by skilled neuroArm engineers for further research and development.

Quanser Teleoperation Setup in Health Research Innovation Centre at University of Calgary

Monday, June 21, 2010

Generous Researchers

One of the benefits of being with Quanser is visiting universities and seeing ground breaking research taking place with the platforms we’ve developed. The other benefit is getting exposed to the generosity of researchers in sharing their passion for discovery with the world. These researchers are very vocal about the work that they’re doing and know that it will lead to a benefit for humanity.

An example can be seen through Dr. Chinpei Tang, a post-doc working with Dr. Mark Spong at UT Dallas, who’s working to tackle the issue of collaborative lifting by robots. One day, hernias and slipped discs may be history as robots are able to handle grunt hauling in groups. In the process of doing his work, Chinpei’s also conquering the task of tele-operation of robot collectives and using new platforms for targeting controllers.

Video of QUARC being used on Gumstix:

Another example is Dr. Marcia O’Malley and the students that are part of the MAHI (Mechatronics and Haptics Interfaces) Lab at Rice University. They are working on projects that will help rehabilitate those who’ve had injuries affecting their movement. Ozkan Celik, one of Marcia’s students, has conducted research on “illusory kinesthetic feedback” (more here) that uses vibrations to provide the sensation of moving one’s arm – even to beyond the arm’s range of movement. Another aspect of their research is using game controllers for possible low cost rehabilitation solutions.

These researchers use tools such as QUARC and Quanser data acquisition cards for conducting their work. They’re passion is present when they speak about their research and they’re open to working with others in their field.

If you’re using a Quanser tool for your research, why not post a video on YouTube and send us a link? We love hearing about it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Come Fly an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

The Annual Conference and Exposition organized by ASEE is one of the most important events in our calendar. It is the forum where we traditionally introduce our latest innovations. Last year, Quanser's Mechatronic Controls Collection was unveiled at ASEE, so what can you expect this year in Louisville? Quite a lot.

If you want to try flying an unmanned aerial vehicle, you should start in our Innovation Hub located on the Exhibit Floor. An interactive demo featuring Qball aerial vehicle and Qbot ground vehicle will give you a sense of capabilities of our indoor Unmanned Vehicle Systems Lab. Interactive 20 minutes demos run Monday & Tuesday starting every hour from
11 am to 5 pm

Unmanned vehicle systems and other cutting-edge technologies are developed by innovators in Quanser - engineering graduates from universities and colleges literally around the world. Join us at 1.30 pm on Tuesday June 22 in the Room 101 to learn how you can enable your engineering students to become future innovators. Keith Blanchet, Director of Business Development at Quanser will be joined by Dr. Hakan Gurocak from Washington State University and ABET Program Evaluator for a technical session titled How to Create the Next Generation of Innovators.

Want to learn about the latest tools for teaching and research? Visit us in the booth 415 for live demos of 3 DOF Gyroscope and other systems. Check the QUARC Interactive Trainer: our virtual Mr. Q, assisted by our real-life engineers, will walk you through the features and capabilities of QUARC real-time control software and show you how QUARC Interactive Trainer can help your students get familiar with the rapid prototyping environment.

Virtual Laboratories from Quanser take the engineering education one step further - and possibly outside of the lab. Based on the real-world systems, Virtual Paper Machine experiment exposes students to control design challenges without a need for hardware equipment. Learn more in our booth!

Looking forward to seeing you at ASEE 2010 in Louisville!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hexapod ver.2010: Faster, Stronger and More Compact

Back in 2009 we released the original Hexapod, a 6 DOF parallel robot capable of producing highly accurate motions while moving payloads of 100 kg. The device is currently in use around the world, serving research facilities and universities, with applications ranging from earthquake research to bite analysis of Saber Tooth Tiger.

Although the performance of the first version is excellent, we acted on a feedback from our customers to improve the Hexapod, so that it can meet their needs even better. Users were looking for higher payload capabilities and more compact system - and we delivered. We are pleased to announce that a new generation of the Quanser Hexapod is now available.
The system has been made much more compact: all power amplification, brake logic, data acquisition and interfacing electronics have been moved into the base of the Hexapod. Whereas the original device required a separate Q8 interfacing card, two large rack-mount amplifiers with a set of five thick cables, all you need is now is a single USB cable to connect the Hexapod to your QUARC-enabled PC or laptop.
The torque capacity of each of the six motors have been more than doubled, ultimately increasing the payload capacity to 250 kg. This was accomplished without losing any of the device's accuracy. At the same time, we improved the design of a passive joint to handle the increased payloads.

With all these improvements, the users get a system even stiffer than before.

- Derry Crymble -

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Quanser Joined Ontario Premier on a Mission to Israel

Back in February, Quanser hosted Ontario Premier who announced a trade mission to Israel and the West Bank. Few days ago, Paul Gilbert, Quanser's CEO returned from the 2010 Ontario Life Sciences Mission. Together with the representatives of other 30+ companies and institutions he was promoting healthcare industry research, innovations and new technologies originating in Ontario.

As a part of the official program, senior Ontario and Israeli government officials discussed opportunities for building stronger business ties in life sciences between Canada and Israel. Israeli companies from the sector were invited for a series of one-on-one sessions to discuss specific opportunities with their Ontario counterparts.

Six years of research and hard work in the field of robotics and real-time control brought Quanser endorsement not only from the Ontario government. Quanser is being recognized around the world as a leader in the field and we see more and more interest in our technology. With its history of R&D in robotics for surgical simulation, teleoperation and rehabilitation, quite a few Israeli companies were interested in utilizing Quanser's haptic technology in their products - whether for medical simulation devices or in rehabilitation robotics field.

The mission also strengthened our relationship with other Ontario institutions that took part in it, such as University of Western Ontario, York University, Queen's University, University of Toronto, or Canadian Surgical Technologies and Advanced Robotics (CSTAR).

Being in Israel, Paul took an opportunity to meet in person with some of Quanser clients. Accompanied by Ittai from Techenware, Quanser's distributor in Israel, they visited Technion University, Ben Gurion University and Hebrew University of Jerusalem to discuss Quanser technology. Most of the professors were interested in our teaching platforms for undergraduate engineering education. From the research point of view, the interest gravitated towards the unmanned vehicles and autonomous robotics and their application in agriculture - from melon picking, to a specific point irrigation. Israeli researchers were also interested in our ability to implement haptics with unmanned robotics. Using the vision and a sense of touch on autonomous vehicles would allow them to do some interesting things in the area of agriculture.

Hebrew University also expressed its interest in integrating our haptic technology in their research into a specific surgical operations - an advanced field with highly complex mathematical models involved.

As a result of these discussions at the universities, a senior researcher from Israel is coming to visit Quanser to discuss significant research projects - collaborations among top Israeli universities - which could happen in the next few years.

Obviously, Paul came back from the trip with a basket full of potential opportunities which we will be developing in the course of the next few years.