FIRST Robotics Competition and Kinect

Yesterday (03/15/2012) I attended the first day of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) LA Regional event at the Long Beach Arena.  This was my first FRC event and I was blown away by what these kids were able to accomplish in just six weeks.  I call them kids not be belittle them, but rather to humble myself.  It was truly amazing.  I brought my ten year old son along with me and were both enthralled with what we saw.

ReboundRumbleRGB

This years competition is entitled “Rebound Rumble” (see a video about it here) and it challenges the student teams to build a robot that can pickup compact foam basketballs, shoot them at one of four basketball baskets, as well as navigate a set of “teeter-totter” style “bridges”.

Microsoft-Kinect-Sensor

I was there as a Microsoft Developer Evangelist because in the competition this year, the teams were allowed to use the Microsoft Kinect both on the robots themselves as well as from special Kinect driver stations.  I found teams at the LA regional using one or the other.  One team in particular though, Team 987 from Las Vegas’ Cimarron-Memorial High School was using the Kinect both onboard for depth perception, as wells as from the Kinect Driver Station during autonomous / hybrid mode.

Team987KinectMounted

Team987WithKinect

 

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Kinect SDK and the Speech API on a 64bit development machine…

I just finally had time to hook my Kinect up today and start playing with the Kinect SDK Beta.  So far, it is a ton of fun.  However, I had a problem with the ShapeGame sample application not being able to load the Speech libraries.  If you are having the same problem, before you read any further read and watch this and you will likely solve your problem:

Setting Up Your Development Environment on Channel 9.

I didn’t read the above until the end of my install / uninstall / reboot / reinstall / uninstall / etc.. adventure.  I am running Windows 7 64bit.  Since I was running 64 bit I had downloaded and installed the 64 bit versions of the libraries.  However, when I ran the ShapeGame sample project, I got the following along the bottom:

“One or more of the Speech prerequisites has not been installed.  Please consult the README for more information.”

The actual problem is identified by a PlatformNotSupportedException in the Recognizer class (Recognizer.cs) in the constructor.  When this line of code executed:

sre = new SpeechRecognitionEngine(ri.Id);

It would throw the exception.  Turns out that (at least with the Kinect SDK) that the 32bit (x86) versions are required.  Once I installed the 32bit (x86) versions of the following (as specified in Setting Up Your Development Environment) all was well.

Microsoft Speech Platform – Software Development Kit v10.2 (x86)
Microsoft Speech Platform Runtime Version 10.2 (x86)
Microsoft Kinect Speech Platform

Maybe I should go review the other getting started docs.  Might save me some time….