Welcome!

Java Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Liz Dickinson, Pat Romanski, Bob Gourley, Yakov Fain

Related Topics: Java

Java: Article

MAX: A Java-Based Personal Robot Platform

MAX: A Java-Based Personal Robot Platform

When you mention the word "robot," most people think of either large industrial bots that do heavy work on factory floors, suicidal bots doing battle on TV, fanciful R&D bots gracing the labs of universities, or simple hobby bots of the LEGO Mindstorms ilk. Don't get me wrong, all such creations are deeply fascinating to me and embody tremendous ingenuity and engineering craftsmanship. However, I want a robot that I can make do a variety of things around the house or place of business, one that won't cost a small fortune and is flexible and evolvable enough that I'm not stuck with a robot constrained to accomplishing a single task. Essentially, I want something that doesn't exist. I want the "Personal Robot."

Despite what may have been perceived as blind fantasy, a few years ago I set about pursuing the construction of a personal robot. I had a formal background in all of the requisite engineering skills including robotics and AI, but they were festering on my brain's vines of unused knowledge. My years spent doing work that actually generates rather than consumes money thrust me into the world of more commercially viable enterprise technologies and products. However, I began to see more and more of a possibility of fusing the commercial-grade work I was doing with my robotics R&D to yield a robotics platform that was cheap yet sophisticated. I wouldn't need to mortgage my house to buy a platform that only the wealthiest of companies or agencies could afford, and I wouldn't be stuck with a constrained hobby bot that could maybe flicker a few lights and fall down the stairs. Instead, I'd commence building a platform that was based on open source and commercial-grade products, be able to integrate with an assortment of underlying useful mechanical hardware components, and provide myself with an open sandbox and playground in which I could develop a wide variety of robotics apps.

I scrambled to give this platform a name and requisite acronym and could only muster the three letters M-A-X. MAX stands for Mobile Autonomous X-Bot. The mobile and autonomous part should be obvious, but the X-Bot represents the fact that the bot would be a generic platform atop of which I could do cool things. X is a variable. Get it? Just plug whatever application you want into the MAX platform and that is what X becomes. Armed with a name and an acronym, I was ready to crank up the R&D a notch and began forming a company around said efforts.

There is a plethora of hardware components on the market useable in robots ranging from the capriciously cheap to the stylishly pricey. To create MAX in such a way that would make it easy to work with this varied hardware, we defined a Java-based abstraction layer to interface with such devices. This was a key design feature since as you create or load different robotics applications into MAX, you may also require different robotics hardware to support your application. Our design thus called for plug-and-playability achieved by either custom configuration of a few generic drivers or by creating drivers specific to the hardware device being utilized.

As a Java zealot, everything I aim to do is in Java. If I could Java-enable my nose-hair trimmer, I'd do it. Blind loyalty to programming languages aside, I naturally think there are genuinely good reasons for using Java to build robotics applications. Apart from its simplicity as well as operating system (OS) and computing hardware independence, the wide range of built-in, commercial, and open source tools readily available make it an attractive and low-cost platform for cranking out robotics apps. Thus, we were hell-bent to try and use a standard J2SE runtime operating on Linux (or any other OS) running on a standard CPU for our underlying platform. In fact, this standard JOC (i.e., Java-OS-CPU) platform is indeed the only platform required by MAX for a wide range of robotics applications.

With a standard JOC platform, MAX communicates with external robotics hardware devices via Java-based interfaces to standard parallel, serial, and USB computer ports. For certain devices like digital cameras, the physical connectivity is easy since most cameras plug directly into a USB port. To interface with certain other sensor and actuator types, such as IR sensors and DC motor-driven wheeled bases, a few extremely simple and low-cost hardware connectors are used to bridge between standard computer ports and external robotics hardware.

For certain sensors and actuators, a more real-time interfacing approach is required; a standard JOC platform won't cut it here. Hence our MAX design required an augmentation to work with a J2ME-based, real-time Java embedded JOC platform. A few reasonably priced platforms on the market exist with some even built around the aJile Java-based processor core executing Java instructions in hardware.

For a certain range of applications, the embedded JOC platform and MAX profile will be all that is needed to perform a variety of basic robot functions. For other applications, a standard JOC platform and MAX profile will be required for more sophisticated applications that perhaps require access to large amounts of persisted data or communication with multiple distributed services, or need to implement more complex planning algorithms. Yet another alternative is to use a standard JOC MAX profile for the more complex data, communication, and planning operations and leverage use of the embedded JOC MAX profile for the sense-actuate functionality inside the same physical bot.

The MAX software and hardware bridges are designed with maximum flexibility for allowing a choice of underlying hardware while providing open and configurable interfaces for building robotics applications that use and drive such hardware. While a growing suite of MAX components is being built and prototyped with a mixture of hardware devices, the real test will come when we start shipping MAX hobbyist and developer's kits. Only then will we all see what sort of community grows to extend MAX and satisfy the "X equals to" equation, making bots and applications that do things we've always dreamed of and have yet to dream of doing for ourselves and organizations in an open, extremely low-cost, and constraintless fashion.

More Stories By Paul Perrone

Paul J. Perrone is an architect, author, and speaker on Java, J2EE, and XML via Assured Technologies, Inc. (www.assuredtech.com). Paul founded Assured Technologies in 1998 and has more recently founded Perrone Robotics, Inc., to focus attention on the vertical space of software for robotics.

Comments (2)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that SOA Software, an API management leader, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SOA Software is a leading provider of API Management and SOA Governance products that equip business to deliver APIs and SOA together to drive their company to meet its business strategy quickly and effectively. SOA Software’s technology helps businesses to accelerate their digital channels with APIs, drive partner adoption, monetize their assets, and achieve a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
SYS-CON Events announced today that AgilePoint, the leading provider of Microsoft-centric Business Process Management software, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 2nd International @ThingsExpo which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. AgilePoint is the leading provider of Microsoft-based Business Process Management (BPM) software products, has 1,300+ on-premise and cloud deployments in 25+ countries and provides the same advanced BPM feature set as J2EE vendors like IBM and Appian for the Microsoft .NET native environment. AgilePoint customer...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., will show what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He will discuss opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and tec...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Utimaco will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Utimaco is a leading manufacturer of hardware based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. Only Utimaco delivers a general-purpose hardware security module (HSM) as a customizable platform to easily integrate into existing software solutions, embed business logic and build s...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, will describe an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people’s real needs and desires.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, will discuss how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money! Speaker Bio: Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, has spent 16 years as a marketing, product management, and busin...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TeleStax, the main sponsor of Mobicents, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TeleStax provides Open Source Communications software and services that facilitate the shift from legacy SS7 based IN networks to IP based LTE and IMS networks hosted on private (on-premise), hybrid or public clouds. TeleStax products include Restcomm, JSLEE, SMSC Gateway, USSD Gateway, SS7 Resource Adaptors, SIP Servlets, Rich Multimedia Services, Presence Services/RCS, Diame...
Samsung VP Jacopo Lenzi, who headed the company's recent SmartThings acquisition under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovaction Center (OIC), answered a few questions we had about the deal. This interview was in conjunction with our interview with SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson. IoT Journal: SmartThings was developed in an open, standards-agnostic platform, and will now be part of Samsung's Open Innovation Center. Can you elaborate on your commitment to keep the platform open? Jacopo Lenzi: Samsung recognizes that true, accelerated innovation cannot be driven from one source, but requires a...
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, will address the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. How important are public, private, and hybrid cloud to the enterprise? How does one define Big Data? And how is the IoT tying all this together?
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
SYS-CON Events announces a new pavilion on the Cloud Expo floor where WebRTC converges with the Internet of Things. Pavilion will showcase WebRTC and the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices--computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
The only place to be June 9-11 is Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo 2015 East at the Javits Center in New York City. Join us there as delegates from all over the world come to listen to and engage with speakers & sponsors from the leading Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data companies. Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo are the leading events covering the booming market of Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data for the enterprise. Speakers from all over the world will be hand-picked for their ability to explore the economic strategies that utility/cloud computing provides. Whether public, private, or in a hybrid form, clo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridsto...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Group, will discuss how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, senso...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics...
Internet of @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley announced on Thursday its first 12 all-star speakers and sessions for its upcoming event, which will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. @ThingsExpo, the first and largest IoT event in the world, debuted at the Javits Center in New York City in June 10-12, 2014 with over 6,000 delegates attending the conference. Among the first 12 announced world class speakers, IBM will present two highly popular IoT sessions, which will take place November 4-6, 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif...
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.