Tom Carroll

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Tom's Articles

The People Behind the Evolution of Robotics
Column: Then and Now
January 2017
A discussion on why the evolution of robotics occurred the way it did, and who drove the latest growth activity in robotics with newly-formed companies.

Robots of the Future
Column: Then and Now
December 2016
Automotons (especially drones) will make significant differences in our future lives as they are utilized in more and more different facets of society.

The Ideal Home Robot
Column: Then and Now
November 2016
So, what exactly is a home robot? Take a look at some of the key aspects of a viable automaton for a home environment.

Are Autonomous Cars and Robots Dangerous?
Column: Then and Now
October 2016
Due to recent in-the-news events involving autonomous cars and robots, people may be wondering how safe these technologies really are.

How Capable are Robot Hands for Everyday Tasks?
Column: Then and Now
September 2016
Human hands are really amazing creations if you think about it, and creating robotic versions is more complicated than you might think.

Locating and Selecting Parts for Our Robots
Column: Then and Now
August 2016
It is the many parts, components, and systems under the hood (so to speak) that make any robot what it truly is.

Robot Control via Speaking to the Cloud
Column: Then and Now
July 2016
Using the Cloud for voice control in robots.

Personal Robots of Yesteryear and Today
Column: Then and Now
June 2016
How far have robots come since the 80's? I mean how far, really?

The Popularity of Personal Robotics
Column: Then and Now
May 2016
What is it that makes folks love or hate robots?

When Technology Fails
Column: Then and Now
April 2016
When technology fails, it can have devastating results.

Robots — What Good are They?
Column: Then and Now
March 2016
Take a look at how the robot industry has changed in the past 45 to 60 years to develop truly useful robots that are good for something.

A Robot’s Appearance
Column: Then and Now
February 2016
Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder when it comes to personal taste. However, true robot aficionados will see the inner beauty in any good robot project.

Healthcare Robotics
Column: Then and Now
January 2016
Healthcare robotics has grown tremendously in recent years, and what is of particular interest is the progress being made with robotic assistants that will allow our seniors to live independently for longer.

Robotics Lead the Way to Self-Driving Cars
Column: Then and Now
December 2015
Will we have totally autonomous cars by 2035? If Google, Uber, Apple, Robot Taxi, and others have their say in the matter — then yes!

Why are Robots so Hard to Develop?
Column: Then and Now
November 2015
Between limitations in technology and a misperceived concept by the public at large about what robots should be able to do is the core frustration of almost every robot builder.

AI and Robots Take Over Mankind!
Column: Then and Now
October 2015
Maybe artificial intelligence isn’t the best idea after all ...

What We’ve Learned from the DARPA Robotics Challenge
Column: Then and Now
September 2015
In reality, the DRC was a huge success, despite some set-backs and falls.

Police and Security Robots
Column: Then and Now
August 2015
With the unrest in today’s society and the dangerous kinds of scenarios that are playing out, using robots to protect human life is becoming more and more prevalent. However, you need the right type of robot for the particular job.

The Robot Hut
Column: Then and Now
July 2015
When it comes to robot collec tions, this unique museum is absolutely out of this world.

Prototyping and Building a Robot
Column: Then and Now
June 2015
Read about how robot experimenters can develop and/or refine their robot’s mechanical design by utilizing existing robot platforms and products to build upon.

Robot Grippers, Claws, Hands, and Arms
Column: Then and Now
May 2015
Get a leg up on adding “appendages” to your next robot, and what is currently being used.

What’s New in Robotics
Column: Then and Now
April 2015
Catch up on some of the latest advances in robotic products.

The Challenge of Agricultural Robots
Column: Then and Now
February 2015
Take a look at the growth of robot usage in the agriculture industry.

Should There be a Robot in Every Home?
Column: Then and Now
January 2015
When it comes down to it, what exactly is a realistic vision for how robots will interact with us in our homes?

The Design Process for Amateur Robot Builders
Column: Then and Now
December 2014
o, how does someone really get started in robotics?

Tetrix, Activity Bot, and VEX
Column: Then and Now
November 2014
Educational robotics kits are a perfect way to encourage kids to get interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

New Technology for Today’s Home-Built Robots
Column: Then and Now
October 2014
As technology moves forward, accessibility to new and improved products has made it that much easier for robot builders to create the automaton of their dreams.

Robot Evolution
Column: Then and Now
September 2014
Take a look at some of the exciting changes and progress made in the field of commercial robots.

A New Look at Underwater Robots
Column: Then and Now
August 2014
The sea is a harsh mistress, and there are a lot of factors that have to be considered when designing robots for work under the waves.

Robot Control Via Speech Recognition
Column: Then and Now
July 2014
Speech understanding and recognition are not as simple for robots as you might think. However, there are some interesting products available that may help your bot figure out what the heck you want.

Robots Assist in Clean-Up of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
Column: Then and Now
June 2014
Details on what really happened that day and why this particular site is so difficult to work at, making it perfect for robots to intervene.

Amateur Robotics Competitions and Exhibitions
Column: Then and Now
May 2014
These different group efforts make a big difference in the robotics community — especially for kids.

Column: Then and Now
April 2014
Bad press, misunderstood information, and abuses of power continue to bring controversy to this otherwise useful technology.

Humanity’s Perception of Robots
Column: Then and Now
March 2014
Whether they’re from the Uncanny Valley or just simple, hard-working automatons, people’s feelings about robots are changing.

Conferences Showcase New Robots
Column: Then and Now
February 2014
Check out what was and what more recently has been the highlights from robot expos and conferences.

Robot Wars: Roomba vs. Neato
Column: Then and Now
January 2014
See how these robot vacuums stack up against each other.

Bases and Structure for Mobile Robots
Column: Then and Now
December 2013
Tips, techniques, and types to consider when selecting the foundation for your bot.

Human Augmentation
Column: Then and Now
November 2013
The concept of exoskeletons is not new. Read about where we’ve been and where we’re going with devices that enhance human performance.

The LEGO MINDSTORMS Evolution — RCX to EV3
Column: Then and Now
October 2013
Take a historical look at how LEGO got started and where they are today.

Parallax, Inc.
Column: Then and Now
September 2013
Learn about the beginnings of this ground-breaking company and some of the products they’re famous for.

Column: Then and Now
August 2013
There once was a time when robot builders had only a few sources for project parts. That is no longer the case.

Robots to Serve Man
Column: Then and Now
July 2013
Robots can serve humankind in many positive ways.

Robots and the Law
Column: Then and Now
June 2013
What will the legal implications be if robots violate human rights?

Get That Robot Built the Easy Way
Column: Then and Now
April 2013
Parts to build great robots are all around us. Just use your imagination the next time you’re shopping at the local hobby, hardware, marine, RV, or toy store.

Controlling Robots in the Air and on the Ground
Column: Then and Now
March 2013
Multi-rotor flyers are proving to be the next level of robotics.

Robot Telepresence and Personal Assistants
Column: Then and Now
February 2013
I would like to begin our discussion of robots working around people with a look at some of the latest telepresence robots.

Robots Evolve into Today’s Bipedal Humanoids
Column: Then and Now
January 2013
Just as man's ancestors began to walk on two legs, robot experimenters decided over a decade ago that a bipedal humanoid robot was the holy grail of robotics. Science fiction movies always showed robots as two-legged walking creations.

Linear Actuators, Servos, and Motion Devices
Column: Then and Now
December 2012
In last month's column, I reviewed the typical rotary servos that we are so familiar with — those used as actuators for model airplane control surfaces or as drive motors for smaller tabletop robots. I also reviewed a few very large servos such as the Invenscience Torxis monster servos and a few tiny servos that weigh only a few grams each. This month, I would like to review a type of servo or actuator that not many of us ever implement into our robotic creations: linear servos and actuators.

Column: Then and Now
November 2012
I wrote about servos in this column back in the beginning of 2008 when the Robotis Dynamixel rotary actuators had been available for a while for the robot experimenter.

The Many Ways to Control a Robot
Column: Then and Now
October 2012
As designers and builders of our robotic creations, we still want some sort of control over our machines, even if the basic control is through autonomous sensor interaction with the outside world.

Sensors for Mobile Robots — Part 4
Column: Then and Now
September 2012
I want to cover some of the more unique sensors in this final part, such as visual image and voice recognition sensors.

Isaac Asimov — Inspiring Today’s Robots
Column: Then and Now
August 2012
This prolific writer has had more influence on the field and science of robotics than perhaps any other person on Earth.

Sensors For Mobile Robots — Part 3
Column: Then and Now
July 2012
As robot experimenters, most of us want to keep abreast of the latest advances in any science and engineering aspect of our creations.

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
May 2012
Sensors for Mobile Robots.

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
April 2012
Robot-Assisted Prostate Surgery.

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
March 2012
What Can Your Robot Do?

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
February 2012
Eddie: RDS4 Meets Kinect Meets Parallax

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
January 2012
TurtleBot: ROS Meets Kinect Meets Create

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
December 2011
A Robot in Every Home?

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
November 2011
Man vs. Machine

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
October 2011
How Robotics Has Changed Over the Years

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
September 2011
Mechanics for Robot Hands and Arms

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
August 2011
Unique Robots Helping Mankind

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
July 2011
Robots: Form or Function?

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
June 2011
New Approaches to Robotics Education

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
May 2011
The Next Step in Robotics

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
April 2011
What Does It Take to Build a Robot?

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
March 2011

Then and Now
Column: Then and Now
February 2011
Amazing Robots Arise From Junk.

The Robotis OLLO Explorer
February 2011
Take an indepth look at this great robot starter kit for kids of all ages.

Robot Hands
Column: Then and Now
January 2011
Over the years, I’ve discussed all sorts of robot manipulators and arms, but most of these have been related to industrial applications.

Robots: From Industrial to Some Amazing Capabilities
December 2010
Besides some independently-built creative robots in university labs that exhibited ‘animalistic’ properties, most early robot products were of the industrial variety.

Robot Cars
Column: Then and Now
November 2010
The idea of robot cars has been around for many decades and, in fact, “automatic mobility” vehicles were envisioned from the very first automobile, though total autonomy as we know it today was not possible at the time. There have been many unique robotic developments that have been employed in various personal transportation devices. Science fiction movies and TV productions have long used robot cars in their sets, and most depictions are a bit off in their technology.

From Garco to the New Bots in Town
Column: Then and Now
October 2010
I still receive comments about many of the old robots that I wrote about years ago and I am always asked to write about some cool robot from the past that a reader has heard about. Garco, from 1953, has been one of the most requested robots people have wanted some information about, as well as the REEM series of robots that I briefly mentioned in the May ‘10 issue of SERVO.

Robot Manipulators
Column: Then and Now
September 2010
One of the most famous robot manipulators in use today is the RMS or Remote Manipulator System used on the Space Shuttle.

Robot Applications
Column: Then and Now
August 2010
Robots have come a long way since the first industrial robots of the early ’60s.

What is a Robot?
Column: Then and Now
July 2010
Today’s new influx of personal and service robots are not being developed because they are ‘cool’ but because people have really come to rely on them for daily tasks.

The Age of Robotics
Column: Then and Now
June 2010
A lot of people speak of the age of robotics. They’ve been doing that for decades. Sometimes these words are just hype by a book publisher to promote a book, whereas others are truly convinced that the period in which they live is the beginning of the age of robotics. They see robots everywhere in their lives — on TV, in the movies, cleaning their carpets, exploring space, and building cars world-wide.

What Does A Robot Look Like?
Column: Then and Now
May 2010
What does a robot look like? What should a robot look like? Does a robot have to look a particular way to be considered a robot?

Robot Mobility
Column: Then and Now
April 2010
The single feature that distinguishes a robot from a computer or any other sort of electro-mechanical device is its ability to move — whether the movement is an appendage or a movable base. Most of us want our creations to move about our house, yard or in some location. To accomplish this, we have to select and build a method of mobility. For now, and I’ll concentrate on land vehicles only.

A Closer Look at Personal Service Robots
Column: Then and Now
March 2010
This recession has hit all industries very hard and the robotics industry as a whole has felt the brunt of it, especially the service robot segment.

A Brief Look at Service Robots
Column: Then and Now
February 2010
Let’s look at the service category, which can include sub-categories of personal and consumer robots (toys, vacuum cleaner robots, etc.), military and defense robots, security robots, academic and research robots, healthcare and hospital robots, and a vast array of remotely-operated vehicles.

The Future of Robotics Competitions
Column: Then and Now
January 2010
There have been interesting threads on the Seattle Robotics Society’s (SRS), the Portland Area Robotics Society’s (PARTS), and the Dallas Personal Robotics Group’s (DPRG) websites lately concerning the state of experimental and home-brew robotics, and the many types of competitions available to amateur robot builders.

Segway Inspires Balancing Robot Research
Column: Then and Now
December 2009
I normally jump right in, discussing the history and development of a particular type of robot and how that robot or the robot’s use has changed over the years. I’m going to digress away from my usual format and start with a technology and an individual who has changed robotics and the learning of robot science in a way that I personally feel no other individual has done before.

Robot Exoskeletons
Column: Then and Now
November 2009
Sometimes called walking machines, wearable robots, or robot suits, these devices serve to augment physical capabilities to either assist or protect a person from certain conditions.

Robot Animal Strive to Match Humanoids in Realism
Column: Then and Now
October 2009
It didn’t take inventive designers and experimenters long to determine that creating realistic robot human beings was close to impossible.

Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles
Column: Then and Now
September 2009
The name ‘Remotely Operated Vehicles’ can really apply to any vehicle that is controlled from a distance, which can include law enforcement robots, military robots, aerial vehicles, combat robots, and even remotely-controlled boats and planes.

The Evolution Of Experimental Robots
Column: Then and Now
August 2009
Awhile back, I wrote about how we’ve built robots over the years and also wrote about the historical perspective of experimental robots. But what actually drove the designs?

Law Enforcement Robots
Column: Then and Now
July 2009
The two companies discussed here and their line of remotely controlled robots represent just a handful of the many companies producing state-of-the-art ‘assistants’ to serve law enforcement agencies and the military.

Automated Guided Vehicles
Column: Then and Now
June 2009
Automated Guided Vehicles or AGVs never seem to make the headlines in news stories these days, as they go quietly about their business on factory and warehouse floors around the world.

Robots Take To The Air
Column: Then and Now
January 2008
Back in December ’05, I wrote about robots that go to war. These were about robots that are on the ground, remotely operated from a distance. In my research, I have found so many acronyms that are tied to these types of robotic vehicles. ROV for ‘remotely-operated vehicle’ which is often tied to the underwater variety, though it has been used to describe any remotely-operated land, sea, or even aerial vehicle. AGV for ‘automated guided vehicle’ which often describes the automated vehicles ...

Personal Robots: From Science Fiction to Reality
Column: Then and Now
February 2008
I’ve written about personal robots for years in this column. I’ve discussed some of the early machines available back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s such as the Heath Hero series, the Androbots, and the RB5X, among others. These machines certainly differed from their industrial cousins that toiled away in modern factories. They also differ from service robots that include ROVs (remotely operated vehicles), UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that I wrote about last month, and AUVs ...

Then and Now | March 2008
Column: Then and Now
March 2008
I was talking with my wife, Sue, about Women’s History month and she asked if an article on Women of Robotics would be an appropriate subject for my column. She knew that I had worked with various women in my robotics work over the years. After all, in September of last year I had written about Bala Krishnamurthy in “People of Robotics.” She has been in the field of robotics for over 25 years and designed and developed programming languages for Unimate’s robots, among many other things ...

Robot Shows
Column: Then and Now
April 2008
The Consumer Electronics Show. The Consumer Electronics Show Typical of everything in life, as time goes on, things change. The same thing applies to shows; robot and technical shows in particular. Displays are glitzier, lights flashier, and the atmosphere of today’s events are definitely higher energy affairs. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is no exception. Early January in Las Vegas each year is the annual CES, an electronics enthusiast’s dream that fills the huge Las Vegas ...c

Robot Muscles - Electric Motors
Column: Then and Now
May 2008
What would a robot be without their version of muscles? Well, maybe it would be just a computer. Now, that’s not so bad if all you want to do is input data and information via a keyboard, CD-ROM, voice or some other means, have the computer do something with that information, and then have the computer store or output that data onto a screen, printed page, a speaker, or some other passive device. Most of us enjoy our computers quite a bit, but we expect some sort of movement from them...

Books On Experimental Robotics
Column: Then and Now
June 2008
Good reference books on any particular subject are vital for anyone who really wants to know more about the topic, and robotics is no exception. The Internet can give you access to a lot of great information, but a good set of books on robotics is necessary to delve far into this exciting field. I’d like to discuss a history, of sorts, of some of the books that made the greatest impression on me for the past 30 years or so.As you can imagine, my choices for a great series of books on robotics...

Robotics - A Historical Perspective
Column: Then and Now
July 2008
Over the years, I have written about advances in all types of robot designs, robot technology, and various robotic subsystems in this column. In each article, I have tried to cover advances in the science of robotics and have covered the history of a part of robotics in a specific way. I have never tried to examine the way that we humans have viewed these creations of ours as they have slowly taken over many parts of our lives. I have often wondered just what mindset developed in people’s...

Robots - How We’ve Built Them Over The Years
Column: Then and Now
August 2008
We take for granted all the motors, sensors, high power density batteries, and microcontrollers that are contained within today’s experimental robots.

Mechatronics: The New Word in Robotics
Column: Then and Now
September 2008
I just read an interesting article in the June 30th Design News Webcast entitled “A Mechatronic Marvel: The Barcode Scanner.” The statement was made: “There are few things in the world today that would disrupt society more than if barcode scanners stopped working. Just think of all the places where you rely on one to accomplish some task. But what is a barcode and how does a barcode scanner work? This webcast explores the role of mechatronics in the development of this nearly indispensible...

Robots - From Humanoid To Human Status
Column: Then and Now
October 2008
I take a lot of technical magazines, more than my postman or wife care to see. Many of them have very interesting viewpoints on technology and robotics. One is Managing Automation — a magazine concerned mostly with implementation of factory automation and robotics. MA has a monthly e-newsletter that covers many automation subjects. The August 1st issue had an interesting article entitled “More Human than Humans” by MA Editor-in-Chief, David R. Brousell...