Nicholas Gurbhoo, a UW master's student in electrical and computer engineering, demonstrated a computer program that provides various commands for small, four-wheeled robots. During a hallway demonstration, the robots were able to make the same movements in unison or could be individually programmed for different movements.
"In the past, robots had computers actually on them, which was pretty cumbersome," Muknahallipatna says. "Now, the robots are lighter and more agile, like puppets. The next thing would be to put video cameras on them."
For example, robots could be sent into a building to determine good locations for transmitter links, says
Aiding physical recovery
Another cluster application allows a physical therapist to remotely view, from a computer camera, a virtual model of a patient moving his or her arm during recovery exercises at home. Using the application, the physical therapist can observe the patient's range of motion, as well as velocity of movement, to determine whether the exercises are executed properly and to monitor progress. The therapist can observe the arm in a horizontal position; flexed or curled inward; and extended.
"For a physical therapist, it's an immediate response. They can provide feedback to a patient immediately," Hamann says.
Additionally, some patients eventually may receive a little assistance from an industrial research robot named Baxter. Through a computer program created on the ECE cluster, the man-size, black-and-red colored robot can help a recovering patient with his or her exercises by actually holding and moving a patient's arm.
"We can take Baxter and use it for physical therapy," McInroy says. "It's really sci-fi, futuristic. The dream of robotics has always been to have a machine, like a human, that can do all kinds of things."
Because there are a limited number of physicians in
The robot includes cameras built into its face and hands. The hand cameras can be used to record the the patient's arm movements. The patient can watch his or her exercise movement on the robot's face camera, Muknahallipatna says.
"Maybe one day, Baxter will be able to move the elbow, shoulder and knee (of a therapy patient)," McInroy says. "That's the dream. We're just starting."
UW purchased the robot from ReThink Robotics, a company in
UW purchased the
Another cluster operation focuses on predicting radio propagation around and over buildings, Kubichek says. Radio propagation is the behavior of radio waves when they are transmitted from one point to another.
"We have a 3-D model of multiple buildings, with a heat map that shows where radio strength is strongest," Kubichek says. "It can trace radio signals bouncing off of buildings."
This application can help building users or facility managers better understand the best radio reception areas, as well as dead spots, in a particular structure or group of buildings. Kubichek and
"Tall buildings create an 'urban canyon' effect," Kubichek says of the blocks of structures that can interfere with radio reception and cell phone service. "When you drive through a city and use your GPS, you can sometimes get intermittent service because of the buildings. This (model) lets us do an entire test in one fell swoop."
"This is becoming important with the growing use of drones/UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) over U.S. soil for various applications, such as search and rescue, forest fire detection and commercial aerial surveillance, to mention a few," Muknahallipatna adds.
For example, during the recent
In another cluster application demonstrated on a computer, electromagnetic spectrums or radioactivity around cell phones was measured. Such measurements can help in designing cell phone antennas, as well as determine where an antenna should be placed on vehicles and airplanes to ensure safe and reliable operation of communication devices, Muknahallipatna says.
"We're studying how to minimize radiation," he says.
Hamann adds the data computation the group conducts in the cluster would be appropriate for use in the 3-D CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment). The CAVE is the centerpiece of the Shell 3-
"I think the end product is not the cluster," Hamann says. "It's the scientists that know how to use the high-capability clusters."
"We think it will give us a leg up for attracting other faculty," says Muknahallipatna, who uses the cluster in his "Multi-Core Programming Using GPUs" course to teach students how to use parallel computing.
While the ECE cluster is currently being used only by the electrical and computer engineering department, McInroy foresees professors and students from other departments -- such as chemical and mechanical engineering -- eventually using the cluster.
Video: Baxter the Robot executes programmed commands (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Rcl0krMkLc4).
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