Tutorial: Crabfu's review of the Bioloid kit

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    Overview/Review of the Bioloid kit & animation system


    For you robotics guys, committing to purchase a humanoid robot thing is trivial, but for artsy fartsy types like me, it's intimidating as heck. So Trossen Robotics asked me to do a review / overview of this comprehensive Robotis Bioloid kit... because I've taken a dive already into this robot nonsense, and the only skill that I have is of the creative type, I couldn't write a single line of code if my life depended on it. So hopefully this little review / overview will show a bit of how it all works, and what is involved. I'm actually very pleasantly surprised how well the kit is documented, and how versatile the system is.... for non robotics guru types

    Perhaps one of the biggest pluses for this kit. Illustrations are clear, step by step, parts labeled and listed clearly (see pics below of samples of the manual). All small fittings & pieces comes in baggies, and are labeled clearly, so no measuring to see if you have the right size screw...if you've ever put together r/c kits, or furniture, you'll know how much of a pain that can be to figure out. Translation is well done, nothing really out there that you can't understand.

    Brackets are modular, and comes with many different types, similar to erector sets, or legos. Combinations of these brackets are almost endless, and the manual shows you a lot of different projects to build. But more importantly, you can make your own designs, if that's your cup of tea.

    These servos have a few really nice design features. 1) there are no cords coming out of it like normal servos. You can hook them up from one to another, daisy chain them together, keeping a really clean wired robot. Each servo is labeled with it's ID and has an LED which can light up for you to check if you are controlling the correct servo from the software. 2) Servos can be continuous. With my PutterBot, I had to physically hack into the servo to make it continuous, so that it can be used as a drive gear for the tank tracks. Robotis servos can be used as regular servos, or can rotate forever, like a wheel. 3) servos are digital, very strong and can relay info back to the system, allowing you to capture rotational values to the pc by simply rotating the servos by hand. Simply put, instead of sliding sliders around in the software, or worse yet type in values, to get servos where you want them, you just pose the robot and the software knows what rotational value each servo has.

    Sensors: It has a mic, can detect sounds, light, distance..... It can detect distance or light coming from the sides or the front etc. You can make use of these sensors to create behaviors with the provided software.

    It comes with everything needed. Software, cables, power cord, rechargeable battery, brackets, sensors, servos... with the comprehensive kit, you can build many types of robots from the manual, each with sample motions and behaviors that you can load into the bot once you're finish with the construction. One really silly aspect though, the interface cable between the robot and your pc is serial.... if you have no serial ports on your pc, like on my laptop, then you'd need a serial to USB adapter.

    The CD installs 3 software to use with the robot.
    The "Motion Editor" is like an animation program, where you create motions for your robot. It lets you generate keyframes for the robot, and pages of these motions can be strung together to create longer animations, or cycles. Graphic by nature, and with digital servos, you can just pose the robot to keyframe the pose. If you have experience in 3D Animation, or stop motion animation, this will come pretty naturally.
    The "Behavior Control Programmer" is basically a program that lets you specify how the robot behaves, and how the motions created by the Motion Editor gets triggered. Despite the fact that the name Behavior Control Programmer sounds rather nasty, it is actually pretty nicely laid out, all graphical icons and pull down menus.... so you can't really make typos (see screen shots below)

    The last software is the Robot Terminal. This is where my eyes glazed over, and is what I think of when I think about what it takes to "program" robots. The interface is non graphical, and loaded with tables, data, function, addresses, and a bunch of other mumbo jumbo, endless numbers and text. If you need to get serious into programing beyond the other 2 software, I guess this is where you do it.... but I, and I assume most people who uses this kit, will not be taping into this program much, if at all.... so I can't comment on this part of the software, as I am allergic to all things too complicated.

    I really like this kit, with nice documentation, graphical software, modular system, I truly feel that it is a perfect kit to get into robotics with. I have had experience in the Kondo 2HV, Lego MindStorms, and RoboPhilo. With everything considered, I'd actually recommend this Bioloid kit over the rest, especially for artist / animator types.... it is more flexible and easier than the other systems. Kondo is the only other one in my experience that can compare with this system. Kondo 2hv is a bit more advanced, and with some really nice features that the Bioloid lacks, but it is not modular (it only makes the humanoid robot), and the documentation and software are not as user friendly. I needed serious help from Robots-Dreams.com before able to figure out how to make motions with the kondo. Once figured out though, I really love the robot. Here are some motion examples, as well as motions for download, that I've animated for the Kondo KHR-2HV. I have not worked with Bioloid enough to create custom motions for it like I have with the 2hv, but planning on creating some unique designs soon

    It's worth mentioning that I've made a lot of simple r/c robots & steam powered robots, and hacked together lots of little robotic critters....you can see them at www.crabfu.com. I'm also an animator / artist by trade, and you can check out some of my work on the site as well. I'm an artist/tinkerer first, technophile second. I've also been lucky enough to receive 5 medals at RoboGames, for best of show, and kinetic artbots... only because I've been able to trick & charm judges with simple characterful robots. One of the goal of this review / overview, is to hopefully get more artist / animators involved in this hobby, and add more characterful motions to a bunch of hardware. This robotic platform is a nice extension of animation, and with the prices of these robots dropping, I hope that more artsy guys can get their feet wet in robotics, and this is a really nice kit to do so with.

    -Good documentation, parts baggied and labeled for easy construction
    -Modular parts, lots of projects to build, or can make your own
    -Graphical interface to create animations, and define behaviors.
    -Nice bang for the buck... yeah it's still expensive!!! but when you consider how much a single digital servo cost, it's really a nice deal to get into robotics (comprehensive kit comes with 18 servos, and everything else needed to make lots of different types of robots). Not too long ago, you couldn't even purchase a humanoid kit of any sort!

    -serial interface cable.... should be USB!
    -although the most user friendly software for animating robots around, it's still lacks in functionality that 3D animators are used to.

    Notes for animators:
    Keying poses are like "key all'. You can only key all, there is no key certain servo/joint for a pose, a pose consist of key all servos/joints.

    Time is defined by the speed going from one pose to the next, so it's relative, not absolute time. So no time slider and moving keys about, only specify speed.

    You can have up to 7 poses per page. Each page is like a segment of animation, or flipbook of poses. If you need more than 7, you specify what the next page is. Because of this, you can create cycles. For example, you can have page 1 consist of 7 poses going from idle pose to the start of the walk cycle. Then you tell page 1 to go to page 2 next. Page 2 consist of poses to make up part of a walk cycle, and then you tell that to go to page 3. Page 3 consist of the rest of the walk cycle, and you tell that to go to page 2 next. So in this case you'd end up with 1-2-3-2-3-2-3 etc. to create a idle to walk, and walk loop.

    There are no ability to adjust function curves, in fact, there is no curve editor or display at all. However, although everything is keys as linear curves, the fact that servos takes time to get up to speed, means everything is a smooth sort of curve, and not actually linear.

    Poses can be copied, and moved. But there is no way to generate a pose between 2 poses. If you need an extra pose, you'd need to take one of the poses and copy & tweak from there

    There is no reak IK, but since it's a physical object, it's easy to move the weight around by holding the feet down and moving the body with your other hand, similar to 3D of moving/rotating the pelvis bone with legs rigged up with ik. There is no rigging involved, it is purely based on how you construct the robot, and how you hold parts down with your hand as you pose the robot.

    Each servo has only one rotational axis, so it's like having joint locked except for one axis. Obviously there is no scale or translation, or other types of keys available, only rotation on one axis. Because of this, the character's poseability is based on how many joints, or servos, you use.

    Making animations is limited and challenging. It's easy to create walk cycles in 3D that looks right, but with a robot, it's a challenge to not have the robot fall. A lot of trial and error of poses are needed to not only have the robot look right, but work correctly as well. I have yet played with this bioloid kit enough to make walk cycles, but have done so for kondo 2hv, which took days to do a walk cycle that can be done in 3D in a few minutes. Speed of servos, center of gravity, and amount of load put into servos, all play a part which you don't have to worry about in 3D animation... which just has to LOOK natural. Servos can only have so much load before they can't torque enough to hold to pose. This is one of the areas that the kondo 2hv wins... it does have the ability to specify power to the servos, and can be fitted with gyros to help with the balance (bioloid also has 3rd party support for gyros, but I do not have any experience with it to comment)

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Replies to Tutorial: Crabfu's review of the Bioloid kit
  1. Semicton Guest

    Re: Crabfu's review of the Bioloid kit

    Awesome. Thanks for the video review. I've never seen a review on how to use a humanoid robot with its accompanied software. I like how you can physicly move the huminoid around by hand to create key frame poses. But I don't really like the stop and start between the movements, it's a little jerky. Very informative. Thanks a bunch!

  2. Re: Crabfu's review of the Bioloid kit

    Quote Originally Posted by Husko View Post
    But I don't really like the stop and start between the movements, it's a little jerky. Very informative. Thanks a bunch!
    Thanks for watching As far as the start/stop thing... you can specify speed between the poses, as well as time for it to hold before going to the next pose. If it is fast enough, and enough poses, the jerkiness will be much less. I did those poses quickly to show how it works, without polishing it to look good.... otherwise it'd be a much longer and boring video Some amount of jerkiness will always be there, but can be minimized if you add in a crap load of poses, and tweak with the timing


  3. Semicton Guest

    Re: Crabfu's review of the Bioloid kit

    ok thanks Crabfu, I thought maybe it was a limitation of the software. Thanks!

  4. Re: Crabfu's review of the Bioloid kit

    Excellent review! Great work

  5. Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Sunnyvale, CA

    Re: Crabfu's review of the Bioloid kit

    Great review -- nice work. I know exactly what you mean about wanting to edit timing and motion curves. It's odd that no one has taken the UI from 3D character animation and applied it to RoboOne robots. Too bad you can't program; you'd be a natural!

  6. Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Sacramento, CA, USA Area

    Re: Crabfu's review of the Bioloid kit

    Meta -

    I think it's even odder that no one has figured out how to convert all the bazillions of full body mocaps out there...
    I Void Warranties´┐Ż

  7. Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Nelson, New Zealand

    Re: Crabfu's review of the Bioloid kit

    Nice review crabfu, Well put together and explanations clear and precise. Like you I cannot do coding and is holding me back big time. I will purchase one of these in time, they look like a lot of fun.Are you going to build a Mech for Mech wars crabfu??
    People yearn after this robotic dream, but you can't strip your life of all meaning, emotion and feeling and expect to function.


  8. Join Date
    May 2008

    Re: Crabfu's review of the Bioloid kit

    Crabfu, great job on the review!!! The video is great and the info relevant and spot on.
    As a newbie my self, the Bioloid is my first real robot, and I love it! It gives you the "I can build robots" feeling literally right out of the box!

    One thing I don't think you emphasized enough:
    -serial interface cable.... should be USB!

    The USB Dynamixal should come with the kit. But I know you were focused on the positives, and really that is my only complaint with the kit.

    Again, great job!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Chicago Illinois

    Re: Crabfu's review of the Bioloid kit

    Thank you CrabFu! This is a great review and should be helpful to many people that are new to robotics. The more we demystify the technology the more will jump in.

  10. Re: Crabfu's review of the Bioloid kit

    Quote Originally Posted by 4mem8 View Post
    Nice review crabfu, Well put together and explanations clear and precise. Like you I cannot do coding and is holding me back big time. I will purchase one of these in time, they look like a lot of fun.Are you going to build a Mech for Mech wars crabfu??
    Thanks everyone...

    Yeah, without the ability, or willingness to learn programing, it's hard to know if you can pull it off or not. Especially hard when a lot of money is involved. So hopefully this little video, and more in depth review, will give people a better sense of what they are getting themselves into, and you can decide yourselves if this is something for you or not.

    Mechwars... hmmm it's been tempting, sounds like a really great competition. I'm not sure, it's not really my cup of tea as far as building and creating. I try not to make anything with any real purpose, and keep it silly. But maybe.... I guess growing up with old skool anime, idea of piloting a mecha is really attractive... we'll see


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