Mines grad student develops 'invisible joystick'

Check out this video of a robotics project created by a Mines graduate student last semester in the Mechanical Engineering Department:

“The project assignment was open-ended and the main requirement was that it incorporate mechanical, electrical and software elements,” said graduate student Dan Albert.

Dan Albert

For his semester project in Dr. John Steele’s Mechatronics class, Albert developed an “invisible joystick” that commands a humanoid robot.

Mechatronics combines numerous engineering disciplines and focuses on the design of intelligent machines.

“I am interested in human-machine and human-robot interaction and thought it would be interesting to explore that area by creating a device that lets the user more intuitively interact with and command a robot or computer beyond the traditional means of a keyboard and mouse.”

Albert developed a gesture recognition glove that wirelessly controls “Silver” or “Gold,” Dr. Steele’s Nao robots (autonomous, programmable robots developed by the French company Aldebaran Robotics.)

“The glove collects orientation and movement data from the sensor attached to the back of the hand and transmits this data wirelessly via Bluetooth to my laptop,” he said. “There, I wrote some software to interpret the data to determine the nearest recognizable posture.“

When he graduates, Albert plans to work in the robotics industry or start his own business.

Steele’s research interests include intelligent machines and mechatronics, especially robots. Some of his recent projects have focused on robotic welding, mobile robot navigation and design of rock cutting machines for NASA. He serves as the faculty advisor to the Mines Robotics club.