The Virtual Robotics Lab is an interactive science lab created in Flash. As of January 1st, 2021 Flash was retired and is no longer supported by Internet browsers. The lab is still available in a modified "video" version (an .mp4 file). In this version you watch a person going through the entire lab, click-by-click. By pausing the video to read all the text and to examine all images and activities, you will have a very similar experience to doing the lab yourself. Detailed instructions follow below.

Virtual "Top-Down" Robotics Lab

Michael Romanzow: Author, Artwork, Programming, Storyboards
Robert T. Arrigo: Author, Storyboards
David Leech Anderson: Author, Storyboards
Kari Cox: Artwork, Storyboards
Kevin Stewart: Artwork
Robert Stufflebeam: Artwork
Allison Steinhaur: Artwork, Storyboards

Animated picture of a computer monitor showing brain image with CT Scanner in background MODULE DESCRIPTION

The Virtual Robotics lab gives users the opportunity to work in a robotics lab building and programming a mobile robot. The tasks include: assembling all physical components of the robot, building a robotic arm, writing scripts to direct the arm to pick up a Coke bottle, writing scripts to steer the robot's wheels to the activity table, loading "beliefs" into the main AI engine (ProtoThinker), and finally watching the Iris.4 robot move through the lab, pick up the Coke bottle, and put it into the recycler (an action it performs because in its "language of thought," it is a committed environmentalist).

The robot that you build in this lab is a "top-down" robot. That is, the robot's behavior will be controlled by a good 'ole fashioned artificial intelligence program (GOFAI) which is capable of having "beliefs" about the world, of making logical inferences, and is the single, centralized control device. This is in contrast to robots with a "bottom-up" design, like that featured in our Virtual Behavior-Based (or "Bottom-Up") Robotics Lab.

The Iris.4 Robot that users construct in the virtual lab is a direct model of the physical Iris.4 Robot built by a team of undergraduates at Illinois State University and their partners at the Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal.


VIRTUAL ("Top-Down") ROBOTICS LAB (Video Version)

There are two components to this video-version of the Virtual Robotics Lab: (1) A video which takes you through the entire lab experience, and (2) virtual books in the form of webpages. You will not be able to complete the lab without engaging with all these elements. Completing the lab will take considerably longer than the running time of the video. To master the entire robot-building proces you will need to pause the video and focus attention on each step.


Open this video in a browser. Pay careful attention to everything that happens on the screen and PAUSE THE VIDEO to read all of the text and observe everything that happens. The video purposely gives little time for reading text so each person can pause the video for as long as is needed. Some of the text exists on separate webpages (the virtual books) that you may find easier to read (see Part Two below).


In the video you will see three virtual books sitting on the desk in the back left corner of the robotics lab.

There are two ways to read the virtual books in the lab. The most convenient way for most people will be to open each chapter as a webpage in a separate browser tab or browser window. The link to each chapter is found below. A second way to read the chapters is in the video itself. The video scrolls down each chapter page, spending only a few seconds on each paragraph. Pause the video to read what is on the screen or, if you prefer, open the webpages below that have all the book chapters.

BOOK 1: Robots and AI

Chapter 1: Introduction to Robotics

Chapter 2: Machine Vision

BOOK 2: IRIS.4 Mobile Robot Manual

Chapter 1: The Servo Controller

Chapter 2: The Scripter

Chapter 3: Robotic Arm Design

Chapter 4: The IRIS Software Environment

Chapter 5: The Central Control Program

Chapter 6: Iris's Vision System

Chapter 7: FlashPT & ProtoThinker

Chapter 8: Components Review

BOOK 3: Extended Reference & Further Readings

Chapter 1: Iris Software Overview

Chapter 2: Scripter Instruction Manual: Extended Version


In addition to this "Top-Down" Robotics Lab we also have an immersive Virtual Lab where users create their own "hierarchies" to design a behavior-based ("bottom-up") robot to perform a task. We have integrated the two virtual robotics lab ("top-down" and "bottom-up") into a comprehensive curriculum introduction to robotics, focusing on the exciting application of robotics in the field of medicine.

Introduction to Robotics (w/ Virtual Labs & Medical Robots)

The Mind Project has developed three virtual robotics activities (1 top-down, 2 bottom-up) and embedded them into a general introduction to robotics that focuses on the use of robots in medicine -- including medical research, surgery, hospital navigation and more. Explore this exciting new curriculum.
Introduction to Robotics

RoboEthology: A Virtual Behavior-Based (or "Bottom-Up") Robotics Lab

Observe the behavior of a mobile robot interacting with its environment. Then, design your own hiearchy of robot-behaviors to replicate the behavior of the "target" robot. In the process you will be introduced to the elegance of "bottom-up" robotics.


Funding: This module was funded by National Science Foundation Grants #9981217 and #0127561 and by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) #R25RR020425, supported by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).