Controlling Robots Via the Internet

Article excerpt

Over the past five years, the Internet has blossomed to become the most recognizable lane on the touted information superhighway. Now, engineers at Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.) have blazed a new trail that makes the Internet the "action" superhighway. T.J. Tarn, professor of systems science and mathematics, and doctoral student Kevin Brady are the first persons to control a robot live via the Internet.

Brady pulled a joystick in Albuquerque, N.M., that controlled the motions of a Puma robot in Tarn's Washington University laboratory more than 1,000 miles away. The three-minute experiment involved the robot avoiding a box in its path to perform a manufacturing task of picking up an object and placing it somewhere else. While picking up and moving an object is routine roboric work, avoiding the box and taking commands from a remote operator in real-time over a crowded public network was extraordinary, Tarn maintains.

"It was a risky technological feat because, as everyone familiar with the Internet knows, there is lots of traffic on it. We performed the task at 9 a.m., which is before the peak usage period. …

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