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The DAQChannel

November 2009

We’ve been waiting for USB 3.0 for 2 years, so long in fact that the next, next generation technologies are starting to emerge. Back in September, Intel demonstrated its new Light Peak technology, aimed to bring fiber optics mainstream. The technology is intended as a single replacement for all current PC buses such as USB, HDMI, FireWire, VGA, audio, and Cat5. It could not only replace our current cables for connecting devices to our PC, but also all of the cables inside our PC. Light Peak supports data transfer rates starting at 10 gigabits per second (twice the rates of USB 3.0) and has the potential to scale to 100 gigabits per second.

Although it sounds far off, it’s closer than you would think. Intel says it is almost ready to be integrated into devices. One company, Foci Fiber Optic, even has plans for mass production starting in early 2010. Some reports have speculated that Intel has postponed plans to integrate USB 3.0 into its chipsets until 2011 showing preferences to its own Light Peak technology. Regardless of which technology gets standardized, either will help eliminate many of the high-speed data streaming challenges presented in data acquisition applications today.



Ok, so now things are getting really interesting. I mentioned last week that there are rumors of a Robot Revolution happening sometime soon. Well, check out this surprise visitor who came by Building C the other day, just to chat it up with some of our employees in the lobby:

His name is Millennia. If he looks familiar, it’s because he’s cousins with a somewhat-famous robot: Paulie’s Robot, from Rocky IV. Can you see the likeness?:

He’s real name is Sico and both Sico and Millennia were created by Robert Doornick, CEO of International Robotics, Inc. He came by NI the other day to show off his latest addition to his robot family. I am told Millennia is quite the ladies man; he was a total flirt with the women who came to his visit.

But these robots do more than make surprise guest appearances in campy, 80’s movies and the lobbies of Austin tech companies. Here’s what Robert Doornick had to say about his company, International Robotics:

Our 35 year old research group has been involved in the pioneering science of Technology-to-People Behavioral Psychology. This represents the study of the interrelationships between humans and machines. Our mission as technology psychologists is to assist the robotic industry in the development of various protocols for how future intelligent machines will need to be programmed, designed and engineered in order to gain long term acceptance as they cohabit with humankind.

Interesting. Robots aiming to coexist with NI employees. I believe my suspicions are being confirmed….


Robot Revolution Countdown

Posted by JenniferW Nov 17, 2009

National Instruments is cooking up something in the kitchen, and it smells delicious.

We’ve been focusing a lot on robotics lately, as LabVIEW and NI FPGA hardware have been proven as useful tools for rapid development of sophisticated robots. But recently, there’s been a lot of internal hype around robotics and I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

It all started when I saw this poster in one of our elevators:

And today, on NI’s Developer Community,  I just found this countdown tool featuring a  Robot Revolution:

Seems like some answers will come around the beginning of December. If you click on the image, you can sign up to be on the notification list of whatever announcement NI is going to make.

What is going on? I hope this doesn’t mean our robot overlords are taking over the world soon. I was still trying to make a couple more robot friends before I became their human slave. Save us, Will Smith!


So if you’ve been following the phenomenal DIY application that has made it to sites like Gizmodo and, you might be interested in the detailed How-To docs that the guys behind this wicked-awesome app created. Just in case you haven’t checked out their blog ( which you should!), here’s some of the technical materials they’ve shared with us:

  1. Technical Tutorial: Remotely Controlled Automobile – iPhone, Power Wheels, Laptop — Includes system overview as well as a grocery list of all the hardware used
  2. Technical White Paper: Use of Prototyping tools in the “Drive a Car with an iPhone” Video — Lists the software used to rapidly prototype the control system, including LabVIEW
  3. Open Source Code: Code for iPhone Controlled Car — Download the zip file that contains the LabVIEW project and all subVIs that they used in order to control the Oldsmobile with an iPhone, Power Wheels, and Laptop

And there’s plenty more tutorials they’ve created to help explain exactly how they did it. Check them out.



How do you turn an Oldmobile Delta 88′ (affectionately named Wendy) into a remote controlled car? There’s an app for that. Check out what some NI engineers created in their spare time:

Check out other projects from these car-surfing cowboys at


When good robots go bad…

Posted by JenniferW Nov 5, 2009

Mainstream television and film have given robots a bad rep. Many people carry the stigma that robots could turn against us, when really, they are performing tasks that are too dull, dirty and/or dangerous for humans to do on their own.

An interesting study was cited today on, where scientists at University of Washington warn consumers about the vulnerabilities our household robots may suffer and what kind of situations that might pose to their masters (think iRobot). I was contacted by the article’s author, Diane Mapes, to discuss the likelyhood of our household robots revolting against us. I tend to think that it’s highly doubtful you’d find yourself being vacuumed to death by your Roomba.

But what our conversation did entertain was the idea that one could take control and/or reprogram your vacuuming robot with a malicious content. It was quite an interesting and enjoyable conversation; there’s a spectrum of motives and possibilities.  Take a closer look here.

So what do you think? Any Roomba or Spykee owners feeling a little exposed? Is it really something we should be concerned about? Or shall we continue opening up our families to robotic additions?




This tasty chunk of code comes from the RoboSavvy Forum, a great place for hobbyist and robotics enthusiasts to find low-cost robotics kits, materials and information.

Mr. Richard van der Wolf from the Netherlands created his own open-source RoBoIO library in LabVIEW, which allows you to communicate with and control the Roboard RB-100. This board is compatible with several robot kits that are already out there, including the Kondo Humanoid Robot ( KHR), Hitec’s Robonova, the Robotis Bioloid and Robobuilder. In addition, if you build your own hardware platform from scratch, you have plenty of communication standard options to choose from. You can find all the info you would need on the board’s hardware here, on the RoboSavvy site.

And here’s Mr. van der Wolf’s LabVIEW code (man, I wish my name was cool like that):

If you run into any issues, I suggest you hit up this forum thread, as it’s specific to the LabVIEW files for the RB-100. Thanks RoboSavvy!