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At the faire - OOZ To Mars!

Posted on 09 Aug 2015

OOZ To Mars

Our friends over at OOZLabs, who after last year’s edition went on to publish a YouTube video series on how to build your own quadcopter, brought us a project that simulates controlling a rover on a Mars mission, sending sequences of commands to it over a remote link and watching as the mission unfolds.

In the process they came up with what is one of the most eye-catching project intros we’ve seen, and have been actively building awareness about the Faire, so we decided to interview them.

But first, here’s their project intro video:

So who are OOZ Labs?

There are three people on the OOZ Labs team: Luís Correia, Nuno Correia (no relation) and Nuno Nunes (no relation either) who met through the Lisbon Twitter community, at @twittlis events. Among this wider community with multiple interests, there was a little group of people more focused on technology and its practical aspects.

Our skill sets range from systems administration to carpentry, including amateur music, bar philosophy, weekend photography, and mad inventions, all split between three people.

We decided to create this project - the One Over Zero labs/workshops - to provide an outlet for our wish to create and share knowledge and experiences with the Portuguese Maker community - maybe even to teach something useful!

Basilio at AKI

And where did @baiavieira come from?

Basílio is a sort of catalyst for everything out of the ordinary, which is why he’s on board :)

Where did you get the idea for this project?

A lot of our daily reads are about DIY, Arduino and Raspberry Pis, so we’re constantly piecing together ideas from various sources. Robotics seems to be back in fashion, and a fascination for the ingenuity involved in space exploration inspired us to bring this to life.

We wanted to do something interactive, so we had to build something that moved, or that was just plain silly. We discussed a number of different notions, like building a photo booth or a giant chessboard where pieces were moved by one or more robots… all sorts of outrageous ideas.

How do you feel about displaying a robotics project to an audience that probably isn’t expecting it?

We think the most interesting thing is having people interact with the project instead of simply looking inside a fishbowl and tapping on the glass. Last year we had a lot of funny conversations with visitors and got the idea that people would like to interact and get hands-on with our project, so…

Rocker-bogie test

What do you think will be your biggest challenge?

Hardware-wise, probably the rover’s rocker-bogie suspension, since the electronics and engines are pretty much defined and our initial concerns regarding battery life seem to be accounted for already.

Software-wise, definitely having all the bugs shaken out before the Faire. We intend to provide the experience of being at Mission Control issuing orders to a Mars rover, which implies an easy way to get across the issue of Earth-Mars time delays and explaining to people why they can’t control the rover in real time.

We also intend to give the rover some autonomy, which means dealing with conflicts between user commands and rover decisions - when detecting an imminent collision, the rover should steer aside on its own, but we need to show that it does that independently of user commands.

So the biggest challenge overall is affording credibility to that experience, which we’ll do by tweaking some parameters in the simulation.

Oh, and putting up with Basílio :)

And what are you getting the biggest kick out of?

We’re very excited to be working on a project that can bring to younger generations a little of the passion for space that we experienced when we were young and that’s been rekindled by recent Mars missions. There’s a positive, optimistic vibe, just like when we watched footage of the Moon landings or Once Upon a Time… In Space.

Besides, working at OOZ Labs is essentially about having fun with friends while we learn how to use new technologies like MQTT in programming languages we’re not familiar with, or designing spring-free suspensions for autonomous six-wheeled vehicles.

You can learn more about OOZ Labs on their blog and YouTube Channel, or follow them on Twitter. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can follow @baiavieira on Twitter too…

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