Studio Life

Meet Archiact's VR Robotics Team

Posted on 01 June 2016

Written by: Geoff (Archiact's Lead Robotics Prototype Engineer)

At CVR 2016, Archiact unveiled a company division that up until now had been top-secret -- Archiact VR Robotics. The project showcased at CVR 2016 highlighted a robotic prototype that was remote-controlled with a joystick and a virtual-reality headset. By strapping on the headset you could see exactly what the robot sees, as if you were the robot yourself. With a simple game controller, you could also drive the robot around. This was an early prototype that will ultimately be used to assist rescue workers in exploring collapsed buildings or other environments too difficult or dangerous for humans. Archiact VR Robotics has been working hard to develop intuitive ways to control our robot. At CVR 2016, we were ready to demonstrate our work so far, which had up until that point been secret (or, G-14 classified at the least). Here's a brief summary of how things went for us.

Meet the telespider from @archiact_games and #SFU iSpace Lab! #CVR2016 #letsgetvirtual #VR #virtualreality

— Under the GUI (@UndertheGUI) May 15, 2016

All in all, the demo was a massive success despite the odd technical problem here and there. It's a well-known fact that robots (much like the roboticists who build them) work just fine in the lab but tend to put on their grumpy pants when you bring them into the real world. CVR was certainly no exception, and after the robot suddenly stopped listening properly to the game controller it became obvious that the situation called for a live debugging session.

Archiact VR robotics at #CVR2016

— VR Dev School (@vrdevschool) May 14, 2016

Using a 3D TV (which was generously loaned to us by the iSpace lab for CVR), we pulled up our source code and began digging through it in an attempt to find out what went wrong. Then something unexpected happened: consumers, developers, and students alike flocked in by the truckload just for a peek at the code that powered our robot! By having our source code more or less exposed for the world to see, we had an endless crowd of eager-minded individuals dying to learn more about our robot and research! Simultaneously debugging and appeasing our groupies was challenging, but we managed quite well.

We received nothing but positive feedback from everyone who used the robot, and everybody had a great time. We're excited for what next year's CVR will bring! We're also armed with an important piece of knowledge: you don't need to give away free swag when you've got a wide-screen TV full of source code.