Baxter Bowling!

This summer, we had some great high school students work on projects involving our robots. Anisha Agarwal was one of those students. She built a bowling routine for Baxter. Here is here project!

With the ability to pick and place objects comes a surprising amount of power. Picking up objects and placing them down is the basis for setting a table, drawing, building block structures, playing numerous games and more. We decided to use this power to teach Baxter how to bowl. The bowling program sets up bowling pins and knocks them down by rolling a ball towards them. Baxter sets up 3 bowling pins from the home area into an area on the other end of the table. Baxter also picks up a “bowling” ball (although, for our purposes, a golf ball worked better), swings its arm and releases the ball towards the upright pins.

Occasionally, Baxter accidentally knocks down a pin in its attempt to place another one nearby. Also, a very specific gripper setting is necessary, such that the grippers are wide enough for the ball, but slim enough to grasp the thinnest portion of the bowling pins. Also, since all 3 pins and the bowling ball are presented to Baxter at once, it can be difficult to arrange them so they aren’t close enough together to confuse the robot, but also not so far apart that certain pieces are outside of the range where the arm can reach.

Despite these limitations, it’s exciting to watch Baxter setting up and knocking down pins!

Amazon Echo + ROS + Baxter

Hey! So here’s a cool video of us using an Amazon Echo to control one of our Baxters. The Echo definitely outperforms our previous speech-to-text methods, and we like using it.

If you’re interested in finding out about how we did it, check the code here, or shoot me an email at

Initial Data from the Million Object Challenge

We are releasing a teaser data set of N objects for the Million Object Challenge.  This data consists of objects mapped using Baxters at our site.  We include objects from the YCB data set, as well as other objects arranged into several object categories.

Download the data here:

The archive contains a stand-alone python program to show how to read and parse the data.

NERC 2015

We are excited to announce the 4th edition of NERC.  It will be held on Saturday, November 7th at WPI.  More details are at  We have an exciting lineup of speakers including Leslie Kaelbling, Drew Bennett, and Sangbae Kim.
It’s hard to believe that NERC is four years old.  It’s not what I expected when we founded the event back in 2012.  It’s great to see so much energy and excitement around robotics in the Northeast!