Rick:
I run the Androbot web page and was wondering if you would be interested in adding anything?

Doug:
Hi Rick,Great site! It brought back a bunch of memories. I have 2 gold statues. I have a Topo II upstairs with an Androwagon and the original AndroTrays. I also have a copy of the design patent for the Body and a few goodies nobody knows about...AndroVac a Robotic vacuum cleaner prototype actually two models upstairs in my design lab. I also have a 4-wheel drive, eccentric wheel, drive base prototype that really drove the software guys crazy.  Here is a picture of me:


The original BOB in a Topo body with a turning head. He has 6 sensors in his head, human detection behind the grill [thermal sensors], and 5 ultrasonics. One down sensor, and the status display sensor in his chest. The floor absence detectors are not installed on this model though.I have some goodies kicking around but donít have a scanner. If anybody is looking for more images let me know. I will write a short story for you about what I remember andsend it to you soon...I am in the middle of a project now but will add it to my list of things to do...Rick:
Great stuff. Please keep it coming! I also know where one Androman is (no transmitters or cartridges), the early? Bob with the large removable front and back panels (gutted) and a Bob/XA with the headpiece and claw, but no electronics. And a blue Topo.

Doug:
Have you heard from Mike Sorri [sp?] He has a few Topo's one blue one but has done some serious mods to it now. Jack Larson was in charge of the human detector and has some interesting stories to tell. John Kearney was the first person I hired in as a mechanical engineer. He did the second drive base along with Sigfreed Salat? Bill Law was our resident PHD that tried to figure out what was coming from my brain... I am the inventor type. Designer and prototype developer. Designed all the plastic parts and did the Industrial Design.
Rick:

I have only seen the one picture of the vacuum and had never heard of the 4 wheel drive!
Doug:

Was it the gray one with a single turban or the floating head with dual turbans and a white body? The 4 wheel drive was reviewed but never went past the prototype stage. It had a gate or a walk feel that was mimicking an animal walk. When it got to a wall it would climb up till it rolled over on its back  The eccentric wheel was stable to the drive base via a cam link Y bar making it a illusion to watch work. Its main feat was it could go out doors over thresholds and  climb up on top of  low profile objects. One of my demos was to drive it over my foot or the spectators foot and keep on going. I think I have a picture of it somewhere but it does not do it justice. My cat would just sit and watch my other drive bases but when I ran the eccentric one, he would jump off the couchand stalk it like it was an animal scurrying across the floor. Its only about 4 inches tall so having it go over your shoe meant it was climbing over half its height.
Because the wheels have offset centers the wheels turn at different speedsand with 2 per motor the wheels would push pull as it traveled linearly.
Rick:

Needless to say, you have me very excited to say the least! I will be happy to send you a scanner or ?
Doug:
What I could do is pack up my documents and pictures and send them to you. Theyíre just sitting around somewhere collecting dust. The design Patent on the body is a "book" I donít remember how many pages it has, maybe 25-30?? Anyway send me your address and I will collect the stuff I have.
Rick:

Let me know what I can do for you! It's great to find that someone kept some of the Androbot equipment and documentation! Even Noland Busnell didn't hang on to anything but a Topo!
Doug:

By the way, the image you have of the gold statue has the X value wider than the imagemaking it look squashed. The body never had a drawing to produce it. Nolan came into my office on Oct 7 andwanted to know if I could have 25 robots by Dec20.  Body, drive base and internalhardware...he wanted to go to the CES show in Jan....hehehehe Yeah right,  I saidif I could do it my way, the chances were good....well I had 22 body parts assembledin Tom Fresina's office on the 23rd. John and I worked around the clock the last few days and for kicks, we unloaded the truck at midnight when nobody was around sowhen he came in the next day he could not get to his desk. They were stacked floor toceiling in three colors.... The CES models were match drilled and did not have time todevelop drill templates for the rivets.  Each robot had to be numbered when dismantledso they could be re-assembled after the electronics were installed. The internal armplug was left off to gain access for connections.....We had 15 performing Robots whenwe were finished....15 working prototypes I should say. The body was developed flat and folded into the shape with cardboard. It was reinforcedwith plaster of Paris and filled with epoxy. Then the molds were cleaned up and used forvacuum formed and router trimmed parts with lap joints, riveted, some painted......It was all done in 50 days or less.... without drawings...just flat patterns. I used myHyper-trig math system to develop them with.... but thatís another story...Rick: 
And by the way, one of the magazines I am looking for is Machine Design, March 24, 1983! In it you are quoted
"Jones admits that he got the idea for the canted wheels in an off beat way". What was the something else that had two canted rollers?

Doug:
I had just finished building a few prototypes for a perpetual motion machineidea I have and the roll track design was canted at 30 degrees each. I am stillworking on the concepts now that I am retired. The roll tracks were mounted to a platform and by chance I set them on the floor up side down and pushed itaway from me and noticed the stability. Logged the idea of a canted wheels andset it aside. Then I went back looking for a job and found the Androbot position.I worked at Androbot for about 2 months before I introduced the idea to themas a concept.... they liked it. I built a model at home and took it in one Mondaywith a cable and switches for driving it around. It was all made with casting resin.The wheels were at 20 deg though and the battery locations were outboard, past theaxis. The drive was a worm gear and single 80:1 gear, real quiet. The stability was5 times better than the production and did not have casters. The bearings were froma lazy Susan dish 11" in diameter directly below the batteries. The mass of thebatteries was distributed through the wheel at the "toe" area, on the outside of thewheel. Imagine a 12" wheel 11" bearing and an 8lb battery per wheel, out on theedge of the wheel.  This was the best weight distribution possible but the robotwheel profile was dominated by the battery and It was preferred the wheels edgewas exposed better so it would not hang on a corner if it got to close to a wall.Well, that should be a sensor and software problem, not a design restrictionfor stability/maneuverability trade off. ...Anyway, itís done now.Due to time constraints the production units were designed without testing and thebase became unstable with the batteries at center above the axis. If I could do itagain [hindsight] I would have forced the testing of the design change due toothers more educated than I, to prove their changes would work as well as my original...It gets tough when you design by intuition and a guy comes along witha PHD and says stuff like " It will work just as good this way"...Well it didnítand the robots had to have casters added at the last minute. Oh well, designedby a committee is what happens when your part of a team.....Rick:
Gosh, I feel like a kid locked in a candy store. Tell me to go away if I ask to many questions:)
I always felt Topo and BOB were supposed to have a different control then the casters! How cool to have the Androbot budget now with electronics controls like the Segway! The robot hackers are getting close to the same stable controls as the Segway for two wheeled robots!

Doug:

This is fun, Talking about the good old days...
Yep I have been watching the Segway and the gyro tech stuff get up to speed.I remember one Saturday Nolan and I were sitting in my development labtalking about what it would take to get rid of the casters. The idea of equalLibrium came with shifting the battery pack back and forth pending thetravel direction. I was working on a new wheel design with 3point contactwheels. We made some soft rubber wheels and did some research but themain goal was to ship product after the show. We were a marketing drivencompany that should have been a engineering driven company. Marketingwas selling stuff we did not have ready to market. That picture you haveof AndroVac is an example.... it was all faked. There never was a vacuum attachment for Topo or Bob.The original concept was to be a shorter robot. More like a pet [cat dog] in height. The body grew in height past the stability point without testing it. It was a last resort to add the casters.We had a huge meeting the day the production drive base was up and running.It was out doors in a internal courtyard. It was running around on grass witha radio remote control unit without a body. Everybody had a chance to play withit, to evaluate and test all kinds of movements. That little guy, about 10' tall wasgreat. It could go anywhere. Through the bushes and over the lawn, never flippedover and was a fantastic drive base all by its self. But no, it had to be a androidtype robot, 36" tall and be more human than animal/pet. Oh well.... on came thecasters after the bodies came in. Maybe balloon bodies, inflatable, would havebeen better. They wanted sensors 30" above the floor. Something that could look over tabletops.

Rick: 

Did you have anything to do with the Fred and Androman? Or did someone else just try to make them look like the Topo?
Doug:

No that was all done externally. Sub contracted out to a firm. The market was showingthe greatest interest in education to teach programming skills in schools. Both Fred andAndroman were focused in that area, more like that programmable tank or arm-a-trontoy that was out then.

Rick:

I assume you were long gone by the time BOB/XA shown up?
Doug:
You mean the fork lift BOB? The black tuxedo bow tie Bob? I did that one as well.He had the stable drive base with the IBM on board. He was designed for a 75lbpayload and was developed for Kodak to deliver parts to the assembly line. All I didthere was the fender skirt and shoulder parts with the sensor packs. The forklift wasdone by Sigfreed Salat and the drive base was done by John Kearney I think.I was working on the "2" piece body for Topo II and just a few parts for BOB/xaI worked on AndroFridge and the beverage dispenser attachments with the dockingstation for Topo when BOB/xa was under development. We could not get BOB/xaworking well enough for the Kodak contract (75 each) and the deal was canceled.Then Androbot in general was closed down and AndroMan remained. I waslet go and developed a robotic vacuum cleaner at home with some partsI had kicking around and went back to Nolan personally and gave him a demo.He dumped his Pipe ashes-tobacco and all on the floor. The robot ran acrossthe pile and cleaned it all up, he did it again, and again, he took it home for theweekend and I went back on Monday to see what he had to say...He bought it and hired me back to develop it under the Androman company shell.I worked on it for 6 months then Androman failed and the vacuum cleaner nevermade production. I am the only person to have been in all division and even started a division at the end when all else failed. My only wish now would have been to design a robot that would work around the house. But as the rule goes,take 20 people and design a robot for 20 ideals and you wind up with arobot that you cant build for the price target the public is willing to pay. We hadso many dreams but not enough time to develop them all. Oh, I wish I could doit all again with what I know now...Rick:

Wow, a vacuum cleaner with a company called AndroMan?
Doug:
It was still called Androbot. The vacuum robot was very hush-hush. The developmentstory is somewhat sad. I should tell the story some day.

Rick:
I got this picture and it is suppose to be from Axlon and their vacumn cleaner robot project.

http://www.geocities.com/androbot.geo/axlon-cleaner1.jpg
It is clearly a modified chassis from a BOB/XA with a sonar sensor on top:)
Doug:
Hmmm not sure about that. Bob/xa had a square base with front wheel drive and 2swivel casters. He had 2- 12-volt batteries at the rear above the casters.  They werein a compartment similar to Topo with clamps. They served as the counter weight for thepayload on the Claw/forklift.
Rick:

I am currently building a mold for the BOB/XA fender skirt now in the shop. They did not hold up well in storage without the wheels on:) It appears only one shoulder robot survived! The others XA robots appear to be headless with just the keypad on top.
Doug:
Yep that makes sense, It was a cosmetic piece only, not a structural item. Not designed tosupport the weight of the robot.
Rick:

The only big mystery on BOB/XA is where were the batteries suppose to mount and how? I am assuming they were to be the same batteries used in Topo? There appears to be no battery hold down that makes sense? Any ideas?
Doug:

The BOB/xa drive base was L shaped rotated 90 so the bottom was like a stair step the casters were under the thinner section and the motor compartment and wheels were at th thicker section. Bob's batteries were wider than Topo's. The foam blocks used with Topo were not used on BOB You could use BOB's batteries on TOPO if you wanted to. 

Rick:

On the AndroFridge, looks like there was two designs.
Doug:

There was a "marketing Photo" all faked, then a real "cooler" style fridge that was sold.
Rick:
One, attached to the front of the office size fridge and another that was all the great Androbot styling!

Doug:

Yep, Thatís the one I did when we were adding "usefulness" to Topo. People wanted the Robot to do things and Noland wanted the Robot to get him a cold beer....

Rick

The latter is only seen on a history channel tape! Have you seen the history channel tape on Androbot?
http://store.aetv.com/html/product/index.jhtml?id=42224&browseCategoryId=&location=&parentcatid=&subcatid=

So, i guess that since even the BOB/XA's did not sell, it is still pretty safe to say that not even one BOB robot was ever sold?
Doug:
We had a contract with Kodak for 75 BOB's and he was developed with the contract specs. He could read barcode and follow a stripe on the floor, lift 75 lbs and wound up with whiskers/curb feelers to detect walls and stuff. It felt like we were going the wrong way with curb feelers to me. Ultrasonic back then had a blind distance. 0-9" was a dead zone so we added bumper sensors or whiskers. The fender skirt was flexible with micro switches at the corners [8] One thing that kept happening was when software failed they resorted to mechanical devices. I donít think a robot is possible without good software and sensors and the software was not there for the sensors.  Today things could be a lot better. GPS and Gyro's, optical mice and most all the Digital camera chips could be used today to help out.
Rick:

Yes, the same dollars spent in 83-84 could do so much more today with what we have now!
Doug:
Wow 20 years ago. Thatís a long time in technology years.

Rick:

Would be cool to get that time machine up and running though...

Doug:
I have often wondered why "The Robots" are not around today. There is a lotof things to consider still that we just cant do yet. The Robovac on TVlooks pretty good, A random cleaner I guess. Where are all the radiocontrolled lawn mowers or vacuum cleaners?. Roving security cams andsmoke detectors. I guess the bomb and explosives area is under way withsome tank type robots...
Rick: 

The later Topoís (II and III) have 4 1" black plastic hole covers glued just above the wheels on both sides just above the diaper seam. There appears to be no use whatsoever I can think of. They do not align with anything on the chassis and with them glued in from the inside; you cannot pop them on and off. What are they for?
Doug:
TopoIII was designed with plugs for a sensor belt. The electronics and hardware was extra $$ but factory installed. The plugs were removed pending the order for sensors. If I remember right the card cage in topo III had 8 slots. The sensor belt was pluged into the connectors at the hole location and was about 2" thick. You could upgrade or order Topo sensors anytime.

Rick:
Everybody asked about arms. Was there ever any design work for working arms on Topo or B.O.B.? I have seen several owners  attempts, but they just do not look right. I am sure marketing would have forced it to happen, since Heathkit Hero, RB5X, and others offered them. If you were to design an arm or two for Topo, what would you have them look like?

Doug:

Not mechanical arms. We had a few Armatrons kicking around but nothing planed forproduction. Topo had the slip on tracks for trays and soda dispensers. BOB had the"forklift" that could pickup pedestal style trays and part bins [screw drive]. Funny you should bring this up. When I interviewed for the job. I presented a Nitonolarm design I dreamed up the night before the interview. Nitinol is a memory metal thatresponds to heat and electric current. I made a 6-cord mussel that would move the armwithout motors.  It was pie in the sky and never got much attention after I started themain Robot design.
Rick:

Since the Topo was sort of a rush job, what was the main influence in the design?
Doug:
It was my development of Hypertrig or 3d trig that was the main reason the robotwas geometric. My NDE had a big roll in my research I did with the pyramids and thatlead to my need to develop a system to model 2 dimension images into 3 dimensionalobjects. If I had to design and produce drawings to build molds with, Topo and BOBwould not have made the 83 CES show.

Rick:
I picture a group of guys drawing things on a napkin at lunch:)

Doug:

Nope, nobody knew what it was going to look like when we started. It was going to be something like what my first prototype looked like. I was designing parts as fast as I could from the ground up. I had a bunch of rules setup by the software and sensor guys for what had to be on the body though and a different drive base than the first prototype. Everything was first attempt, accept and go to the show, or reject and donít go to the show...I had to go back and tweak the legs a bit when I finished the chest partsfor the floor sensors. The IR sensors in the upper chest area that look at the floor needed a co-plane sensor position in the leg to "watch' the IR spot projected to the floor.

Rick:

Would love to see the rejects! Of the thousands of people who have visited the web site and many of those who have emailed me, the design is what attracts them.( plus the heavy media marketing!) The design does not appear to have dated it self like the other robot companies of the eighties. Is there anything you like or dislike about the looks that you would change, not counting the mechanics we talked about earlier? Or was this just a bit of luck? Of all the robots I have collected, everyone goes to the Androbot Topoís first!

Doug:
People were commenting about the sexy robot Topo at the show and it was not my intent to have it sexy. The chest protrusions were a design requirement to detect floor absent so it would not go down the stairs or over the edge of a pool. Later in production they became the handles that people used to pick it by. The belly pan handles were not used much. I had to leave the internal arm parts off the first build to serve as access openings.  I never liked the access for cable connections in any of the designs and wanted panels in the belly and back. I was working on a wheel design that would remove the casters....but the caster became the docking station guides for AndroFridge.....I had a nice induction charger the robot would "nest on" that did not like the casters....
Rick:

Okay, with your permission, I would like to combine our conversations, have you approve the text and post an outline on the website.
Doug:

Thatís fine. One of these days I will sit down and write a story about my 'internal' companion. Now that I am retired I can say some stuff I have been keeping to myself about designs and how some of them came to into my mind.

Rick:

Oh, just one more question. The rectangular sensors (B.O.B.s breastplate center and BOB/XAís corner sensor pods). Are they IR sensors, PIR, or barcode reader?
Doug:

Odds are they are the Barcode readers. They got those working pretty good. IR was to watch a floor stripe and should have been in the center panel. B.O.B center sensor was human detector or thermal sensor feedback. It was more glitter than anything though. Whenever a sensor was triggered, one light would come on . Thermal in center, ultrasonic and IR outboard. 9 total lights

Rick

I had heard of a sensor belt for the Atari robot camp. I was told the plastic rotted away and all that is left are the wires and switches. It was just a modified wireless set of joystick switches hung on Topo and the receiver was plugged into the joystick port. I have never seen any pictures or paperwork, etc on an optional sensor belt. But that makes sense that those hole location would be the place to do it! As a matter of fact, there does not seem to be much of anything printed once the Topo III came out with the snack trays that slide on.
Doug:

It was a plan for the future. The belts were in the design process when Androbot closed the doors. I hade one prototype running around. There was a sensor box that snaped onto the belt. The box could hold a IR, Ultrasonic or Whisker and I think there was 8 positions.
Rick:

Speaking of forklift BOB and his pedestal style tray. What the heck are those things made of (wood, cement, plastic) and the design escapes me as to where they would have came from?
Doug:
The base diameter was critical as it slid up and down in the fender-base plastics. It had to be taller than the ground clearance. The dish or pedestal top diameter was a bit larger to clear the sensor guides and the pole was PVC or wood. As light as possible. They were round because the approach angle was any degree. It was not easy to get the robot to roll up to the pedestal first time and pick it up.  It took more than a few approaches and along time to get the approach angle set from a distance. It was not even close to a  drive to and pick up process like a person does on a fork lift. I think that is reflector tape on the pedestal shaft.
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