Gallagher Wins Contest With Magic Button Interface

If you need a little dose of magic in your life look no further than a new interface developed by CSAIL’s Garratt Gallagher. Using a Microsoft Kinect video game system in conjunction with ROS (open-source Robot Operating Software developed by Willow Garage), this Systems Robotics Engineer has created Customizable Buttons, a program that operates in a magical manner.

The program works a little like this: Draw an enclosed shape, such as a circle or square on a piece of white paper. Then touch the center of your shape, pushing in as you would the power button for your car radio. Once you hit the “button,” you will be regaled with a sound, anything from a car horn to a duck quack, just like when you press a on a piano.

To create this fun and fantastical software, Gallagher used the Kinect and ROS interfaces to detect his hand and the shape on the table, thus enabling him to set up an action-reaction type response. For his creation, Gallagher was awarded top prize in the ROS 3D contest and $3,000.

Gallagher submitted six Kinect and ROS-based demonstrations to the competition, which demonstrate the ability to use the technology to do everything from Minority Report like interfaces to hand and finger detection.

“I’m really excited about the work Willow Garage is doing,” said Gallagher. “They are uniting all of robotics, which is something I support wholeheartedly.”

Gallagher is a member of both Russ Tedrake’s Robot Locomotion Group and the Learning and Intelligent Systems Group, which is led by Leslie Pack Kaelbling and Tomas Lozano-Perez. His current research focuses largely on using the Kinect, as he feels the system’s superior capabilities and low price will make robotics a more accessible field. Currently, Gallagher is building a low-cost, introductory platform for robotics called the Bilibot. The platform will operate through the use of ROS on a cheap laptop, which will be attached to a Roomba/Create with a Kinect on top.

For more on Gallagher’s work, check out his blog.

Abby Abazorius, CSAIL