Posts Tagged ‘Ability Technologies Corporation’

1983 – MARVIN Robot – David Gossman et al (American)

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1983 – "MARVIN" the Robot by David Gossman et al. (Image source: Robot Tech Talk, 1985 by Ed  Radlauer.)

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MARVIN MARK I – "Mobile Anthropomorphic Robot VINtage high tech robot"

Marvin Mark I moves around the room, talks with a synthesized voice using his 500-word vocabulary, moves his head, has sonar ranging on board, and has two 6-axis arms that can be programmed to work simultaneously. Marvin is a somewhat anthropomorphic personal robot that stands approx 4 foot 2 inches tall and has two six-axis arms, an on-board Motorola 68000 processor and a standard disk drive. A total of 15 axes of movement can be operated simultaneously under computer control.


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 Text by bill_r:

     "Marvin" appeared on the scene somewhere around 1982 or 1983.  He featured the new (at that time) 68000 processor, and was actually very sophisticated, both mechanically and electronically.  The articulation and strength of the arms and hands were particularly impressive.  At that time, I was working for a small engineering company (Helman Engineering) prior to their relocation to South Carolina, helping to design and built fiber-composite tensioning systems for sale to the Air Force and aerospace industries.  At one time, we were asked to supply a bid on automated traffic control systems for highway construction sites.   (Apparently, the accident rate is fairly high, and holding a sign for hours has to be the world's most boring job.)  We kicked around some requirements, and decided that such a device should be self-contained, durable, capable of communicating with both the foreman and other robots on the job via radio, and equipped with visual warning devices for motorists as well as audible warnings for the road crew, should a car not slow down or otherwise pose a threat.  "Marvin" had recently come to my attention, and he looked like he might be a good place to start, so my boss (coincidentally also named Marvin) and I hopped in his red-white-and-blue stunt plane (he used to be a stunt pilot in an aerial circus, but that's another story altogether) and hopped over to Iowa to visit "Marvin's" home.  The pictures above were taken at the small factory.  The image of a robot assembly line (ala "Short Circuit" or "The Terminator") sticks in my head to this day.  I remember seeing tables holding row after row of arms, hands, heads, wheels, etc., ready to be assembled.  I don't know what happened to "Marvin" and his brothers, because I don't think I've ever seen one, or even a picture of one, outside those I saw at the factory that day.  The advertisement is one of a short series run in "Robotics Age" magazine.  (In case you were wondering, the traffic-control robot fell through; it seems it's cheaper to pay a human being to lean on a shovel all day…)

        Update 9/10/98:  Being curious if there were actually any "Marvins" around that I might adopt, I did some research.  The company is long gone, having gone bankrupt in 1990 due to the fickle fortunes of the robotics market.   They apparently sold a number of robots of varying designs before they vanished, however.  By speaking to the mayor of the town where the company once existed, I was able to make contact with two of the three people who designed and built "Marvin", who are still living in the area, but pursuing totally different occupations.  The 3rd person apparently moved to Minneapolis and later passed away.   I'd still like to give a "Marvin" a home, so if you know of any that are available, let me know!   

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Above images also from bill_r.


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MARVIN specification from The Personal Robot Book, Texe Marrs, 1985.


Most of the advertisements shown below are from various issues of Robotics Age journal. Some are reproduced by convenience from The Old Robots.

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Press photo of Marvin in Boston. Date and people unknown.

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Poor image From IEEE's Spectrum, May 1985.

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MARVIN at the IPRC 1984. Image by Richard Moyle via David Buckley's Historic Robots.


Source: The Daily Reporter – Sep 20, 1984

Branstad meets Melvin robot
By Judy Daubenmler, Iowa News Service
DES. MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad got a helping "hand" with one of his office chores Tuesday and seemed pleased that the "hand" wasn't a human's.
The governor signed a proclamation declaring Sept, 30-Oct. 6 "Iowa High Tech Week" and in the spirit of the week, an Iowa-made robot handed the governor the document for his signature.
The robot, a 4-foot-2-inch, 150-pound electronic bundle called Marvin, told the governor, "I am pleased to be here" as he raised his arm and presented Branstad with the proclamation.
"I congratulate you humans on a great idea … and for choosing me to help you. From me and my pals in Iowa industry, thank you. Thank you, Governor Branstad. What a great week," said Marvin,
Calling it a "little different to be talking to robots," Branstad thanked the blue, pudgy, human-shaped machine and then tugged gently to loosen Marvin's
grip on the proclamation.
"Is he going to let go of it?" asked a skeptical Branstad.
A well-trained Marvin relaxed his grippers, surrendered the paper to the governor and then lowered his arm.
The little ceremony in Branstad's formal office was a sort of Iowa debut for Marvin, but his "father" says the little tyke may soon go on to bigger and better things.
David Gossman, chief executive officer of Iowa Precision Robotics, Ltd., in Melvin, said Marvin clones may show up in movies, television commercials and serials, industry and schools.
"Marvin was originally designed and developed to be an educational tool, a training aid, primarily at post-secondary institutions, to facilitate the training of individuals in programming robots for industry and for students on the engineering side of the card," he said,
Marvin's insides are much like the insides of industrial robots, but he sells for around $6,000 instead of $30,000 to $150,000 as industrial robots do, explained Gossman. That makes robotics courses affordable for post-secondary schools, he said,
Marvin contains a computer eight times more powerful than a common personal computer, He can be programmed with the help of a computer terminal that plugs into his back and a computer language the firm developed just for him.
Marvin has a large vocabulary, although Gossman admits his speech is sometimes hard to understand the first time it's heard. More understandable speech synthesizers could have been used but they had a limited vocabulary, he explained,
Marvin's two arms have six movable joints and can lift objects weighing up to five pounds.
He has wheels instead of feet and a sonar system that lets him find his way around objects by bouncing sound off them,
Gossman came up with the idea of manufacturing Marvin about two years ago when he saw that schools could use a sophisticated, yet cheap, tool to teach robotics.
Gossman said he decided to make Marvin have a human shape only because it "tends to attract attention" and not because there is any real need for him to look human-like,
Formerly with the Stylecraft firm in Milford, Gossman incorporated Iowa Precision Robotics in April 1983, So far, $250,000 has been spent in developing Marvin,
The firm now employs 10 people and will expand to 20 to 25 within six months.
Marvin is the demonstration robot, and the first production models will be put together in late September or early October,
Orders so far have come from Westinghouse, which plans to use Marvin as a tour guide, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Hollywood,
"Six Marvins have been purchased by a prop supplier in Hollywood and we've been contacted by quite a number of people wanting to use the robot in television commercials, Conversations are going on that could mean one will find its way into a television serial, but I can't indicate which one," said Gossman.
Marvin is expected to have a market-life of about five years, and he's likely to be followed by "son of Marvin" after that as American businesses turn increasingly to robotics, Gossman said.
"I really don't know whether robotics is the wave the future, Wave of the future may be a bit strong," said Gossman,
"Obviously, industry is going to evolve into using more and more automated tools in order to maintain its competitive position against other countries.. We're no longer isolated.
"Whether the labor unions like it or not, industry will be forced to use robots. It's an evolutionary change rather than a revolutionary change."


Iowa Precision Robotics, Ltd. principals: David L Gossman (dec.), Matthew L. Plagman (dec.) and Rand Weaver of Iowa Precision Robotics, Ltd.


Iowa Precision comes battling back. (Iowa Precision Robotics Ltd.)

Article from: American Metal Market | July 1, 1985 | Dave Fusaro.

CHICAGO–Iowa Precision Robotics Ltd. recently laid off most of its staff and even had its phone disconnected, but chief executive officer David Gossman says the year-old maker of personal robots is now back on the track to profitability. The Melvin, Iowa, company has delivered its first personal robot–with four more to follow–and has also lined up another $400,000 in financing to keep the wolf from the door. "We've just gone through a really critical period for cash flow," Gossman acknowledged.

Robot Insider, trying to get up to date on Gossman's activities, wasn't the only caller frustrated by the disconnected phone. Joseph Collins, both Jr. and Sr., wanted to reach Gossman to talk possible merger.


Greg Johnson was also a Software Engineer who worked at Iowa Precision Robotics during May 1984 – June 1985 (1 year 2 months).

He developed a custom DC brushless motor with commutation algorithm and hardware. Worked on Z80 code for motor control for motion and articulation of the robotic arm. Fun work and everything was built from scratch.


Patent Info:

Publication number    US5166872 A
Publication type    Grant
Application number    US 07/851,116
Publication date    Nov 24, 1992
Filing date    Mar 16, 1992
Priority date    Jul 17, 1989
Fee status    Lapsed
Inventors    Rand D. Weaver, David L. Gossman, Matthew L. Plagman
Original Assignee    Ability Technologies Corporation

System and method for controlling devices through communication processors and pluralities of address-associated device controllers sharing each communication processor

Abstract
The system for controlling a plurality of devices includes a central processor that receives information from a user, translates the information into a command and sends the command to a communication processor. The communications processor formulates a device command to send to a remote device processor which is connected in close proximity to a device that the user wants to control. The communication processor also receives status information back from the device processor which has been accessed. The device processor receiving a command uses the command to control the device attached to the device processor. Each device processor is able to monitor the commands sent to other device processors and can be set to use these commands to control their attached device. This method of monitoring allows many devices to be controlled simultaneously with very few commands. The system also allows for different types of devices to be attached to the device controllers so the system can perform a multiplicity of functions.

Publication number    WO1991001520 A1
Publication type    Application
Application number    PCT/US1990/003866
Publication date    Feb 7, 1991
Filing date    Jul 10, 1990
Priority date    Jul 17, 1989
Inventors    Rand D Weaver, David L Gossman, Matthew L Plagman
Applicant    Ability Technologies Corp, Iowa Precision Robotics Ltd


As may be evident in the patent applicant above, the principals 'moved' to Ability Technologies Corp.

From the below article, under the Ability Technologies Corp banner, two more robots were built, "Futura" and "Versa Base." I have not been able to locate any pictures of further information on these.

The Daily Reporter    Spencer, Iowa    Friday, Feb. 9, 1990,    Page 3
LIFESTYLES
Sacred Heart students meet robots
Recently, Kent Lachner gave Mickic Moklestad's fifth grade class (from Sacred Heart School) a tour of his robotics corporation, Ability Technologies Corporation, in Melvin,
While there they met Futura, a robot designed after a woman. Futura will go to Rome, Italy this month to work in a pizza restaurant — she may also be a fashion model, Her sponsors include a soft drink company and a beer company.
Students learned that the black box that controls each motion of the robot is called an "intelligent motor controller," and that a robot can have tip to 64 of them, They also learned that robots can't read, but they can scan and record,
Students learned that robots can weld cars, help paralyzed or handicapped people, pick up clothes in a dress factory, be security guards, deliver hospital trays, deliver mail and cook,
Another thing they learned there is that robots can he made to move in three ways — hydraulics, pneumatics (air) and electronics. Ability Technologies Corporation uses electronics,
While there, students also met another robot called "Versa Base," who danced and did a power demo.


See other early Humanoid Robots here.
See other early Mobile Robots here.