November 9, 2001
the SC2001 supercomputing conference held in Denver, Colorado, November
12-16, visitors are likely to encounter a roaming robot named RAGE.
Despite its fearsome moniker, RAGE is intended to be a convivial
sort of critter, built specifically for the purpose of extending
the reach of the group-communication tool known as the Access Grid
to people and events far from the Grid's fixed "nodes."
Although originally named IMAGINE, for Integrated Mobile Access
Grid InterNet Entity, the Computing Sciences employees who built
the beast in their spare time evidently thought an acronymic loss
was worth a gain in conceptual clarity. They settled on RAGE, for
Remote Access Grid Entity. Put together over a period of five months,
RAGE combines the robot-building experience of NERSC's John Shalf
and Information Technologies and Services Division's Zach Radding
with software for collaborative systems developed over the years
by NERSC's Distributed Systems Department.
Made of off-the-shelf components and encased in a custom shell
built by Radding in his garage on a recent weekend, RAGE is connected
by wireless to a remote computer interface, where the operator can
see through the robot's small camera. The robot is also equipped
with an LCD screen and speakers, which allows two-way communication
between the operator and anyone the robot meets, wherever it roams.
RAGE debuts at the SC2001 conference, capturing both technical
presentations and less formal human interactions in the exhibit
hall, feeding the information into the Access Grid, and thence to
the world. The control connection is secure enough to discourage
unwanted interference. Some day, this kind of technology may allow
a robot to be a stand-in at technical conferences, allowing people
to watch presentations and interact with presenters without the
hassle and expense of traveling to distant meetings.
The Access Grid was initiated several years ago at Argonne National
Laboratory and developed with the collaboration of numerous laboratories,
universities, and other institutions, with significant input from
Berkeley Lab, including MBone multicast technology. The Access Grid
uses multimedia displays and visualization environments to support
large distributed meetings, collaborative work sessions, seminars,
lectures, tutorials, and training exercises, emphasizing group-to-group
RAGE was designed to take the Access Grid beyond the walls of its
specially built, inherently immobile nodal facilities. Because RAGE
has four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering, with remote operation
by way of 802.11 wireless network technology, it can provide Access
Grid interaction in many locations not equipped with a node. RAGE
is exploring the SC2001 exhibit hall and attending technical and
plenary sessions, providing remote participants with a physical
(if nonanthropic) presence in the room and thus a more direct means
of interacting with those attending in person.
Once it returns to Berkeley Lab, RAGE is expected to provide remote
tours of the Oakland Scientific Facility.
The RAGE Team includes John Shalf, Zach Radding, Deb Agarwal, Keith
Jackson, Marcia Perry, Martin Stoufer, Joshua Boverhof, Dan Gunter,
Eve Edelson of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division, and
Photos of the team and the robot in various stages of construction
can be found at http://www-itg.lbl.gov/~deba/RAGE/.
Specifications can be found at http://infinite-entropy.lbl.gov/IMAGINE/.