Friday, April 20, 2007

The DUIBot Lives!

Ain't this just the sweetest place to be?

You might be wondering what that cataclysmic monstrosity in my room is. Well, that is a proof-of-concept prototype for a term project for a Design Synthesis course Makam, Pota, Mukund and I are doing. It is an automatic library cataloging robot, designed especially for the slightly-less-than-stellar IITM library. By the end of the project, you walk into the library and type the name of your book, and buzz-whirr-crank-pfft! you get the X,Y,Z location of the book :-)

The challenge lies not in doing it from scratch, for several places like the New York City Library already have a similar, more efficient system working, but in retrofitting a system into the delightfully ill-designed ( delightful because of the immense dose of confidence you get in yourself after seeing professionals do such work ) IITM library. I'll probably write a more detailed post on it soon, but during the course of the project, from image processing to bargaining with timber shops in Vels to cursing Aluminum L sections for their low Moment of Inertia to heated arguments in the library over beam deflection formulas to microcontroller programming to fighting about bump sensors to pattern recognition to tearing up Pota's literally fat prize cheques to scientific thought to..erm, shall we say, Result Oriented Engineering Thought to laughing our asses off at Pota's hilarious 'Commercial Prospects' section in the report to fighting with \clear:page to Sod's Law to 2^9 books to 2^25 books to 2 books to "Hmm, should we show a live demo, or will a video suffice?" to Hofstadter’s law to truss design to slanted members to wobbling powerscrews to high torque motors to low torque motors to no torque motors to cheap 100Kpix webcams to pathetic 4fps frame rates at 16 colors to more vehement cursing to singular disagreement about the merits of RFID to unequivocal consensus on the demerits and the incompetence of the library as a whole to fishing out 70 books from the nether recesses of my room to finding Nitin Chandrachoodan's old Ap-mech book passed on by seniors' legacy to Verdant Fantasies manifesting themselves in encoded barcodes to 'Eesabeku, Iddu Jayisabeku!' to 'lite ra mama' to "Shit, we just rediscovered the Gantry" to "Hey, we just rediscovered the four-bar" to the Joy of Rediscovery to the realization that aligning the powerscrews is the solution to this problem to the realization that getting better components is the solution to this problem to the realization that image doctoring is the ultimate solution to this problem to the realization that image doctoring is the ultimate solution to all Engineering problems to "Hey, check Intensity(t) vs t" to "That’s Ok, check dI(t)/dt" to "Hm, check FFT(I(t))" to "Dash it, try d(FFT(I(t)))/df)" to "Ok da, try d(FFT(dI/dt))/df" to "Go ask the Intensity to f**k itself sideways" to the joys of Canny's Edge Detection algorithm to the Matlab Image Processing blog to Contiguous Block Matching to Pota's ludicrous suggestion of putting up our 30 page lab report as a blogpost to the acute embarrassment of the entire class getting to know all my sources of ,ahem, entertainment when I inadvertently connected my laptop to the projector without closing all windows to finally doing the presentation well, phew, we've seen it all !


Oh, and by the way, our last slide was this:

Does that ring a bell somewhere?



themiddler said...

Wow! Sounds awesome! But what is a "proof of concept" design? As in do you demonstrate it for a smaller room or something?

BoFi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ganesh said...

^:)^ Nice post, nice read :) I fully second bofi's thoughts! You guys are gawds!

Sets me wondering.. Why is it that we dont get to do such stuff in BT? Or is it just us being devoid of enthu?

(somehow posted the same in some other arbit post and then realised my mistake)

CuriousMoron said...


That's all I have to say!

Mohan K.V said...

@all: I am most honoured, good sirs!

@middle: yes,for a smaller set of books

@bofi: I'm so puffed up my skin's starting to tear :-)

@jiggs: :-)

@sb : long time no post! Busy eh?

Alone Dreamer said...

awesome.....nice post to read...

Mahesh Mahadevan said...

Just DUI it!
A wonderful demonstration of how engineering works! And a great idea for the situation. I wonder how the solar lawnmower the cells/collectors of which, cover the lawn, fared.

A few questions:
1. What did BoFi say!?
2. What's the picture in the last slide, along with 'Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish'? (:D at the tagline!)
3. Could you upload the video on YouTube? (preferably with a Star Wars theme, with scrolling text saying - not so long a time ago, in a galaxy within reach, there were a few mech students who did ...) - country idea, I understand :P

parseval said...


Could you explain a bit on how it's supposed to work?

Do these robots scan all the shelves at some fixed interval of time to catalog the books? From the pic, I can make out something which looks like a movable webcam. Will you install one on all shelves? What if someone doesn't align the book properly?

Looks like an amazingly challenging project. Best of luck!

Mohan K.V said...

@parseval: Yes, it 'indexes' every shelf approx every 15-20 mins.
We used the webcam in the prototype because it was a low cost alternative. Ideally, we'd want to use an RFID receiver, in which case we need not bother about alignment. However, RFID has its own set of issues, the first one being cost. We'll keep you posted on more details :-)

Bharadwaj said...

Quote: "Go ask the Intensity to f**k itself sideways"

Cryptonomicon: Too much :P Read the book based on ur blog post... was an good read, tho I got lost somewhere near the end... Solitaire was a revelation tho :)

nagaraj said...

superb and i am very much impressed and like to read more such blogs