Kinect makes programming robotic arm a cinch


What might you do with a robotic arm? Well, if you’re part of the maker community, the possibilities are almost endless. Hook it up to an Arduino or Raspberry Pi controller, and you’ll have a companion that can paint, sort objects, play games, and generally amaze your friends and relatives. All you need is a pile of cash and some serious coding skills. Or do you?

A recent Kickstarter campaign is promoting a the 7Bot, a robotic arm with six axes, a 17-inch reach, and big ambitions—coupled with a small price tag of $350. And better yet, you can program it without writing a single line of code, just by using your own arm to model the desired functions under the watchful eye of a Kinect for Xbox One sensor.

The 7Bot desktop robotic arm

The 7Bot desktop robotic arm

By using capabilities enabled by the Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0, the sensor captures the 3D coordinates of your arm joints, after which a set of reverse kinematic algorithms (actually, a series of multiplication operations between matrices and vectors, which the 7Bot team intends to open-source) calculates the angle of each servo that is required to duplicate movements modeled by your arm. Those data are then sent to the 7Bot via Bluetooth, and, voilà, you’ve programmed your robot without first getting an engineering degree. This video shows the process in action:

The Kinect for Windows Team

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