Telepresence Robots and Other Cool Innovations

Launching the OCULUS Surveillance and Telepresence Robot with a fully-funded Kickstarter campaign, Colin Adamson’s open hardware project recently earned his company, Xaxxon Technologies, a spot in Entrepeneur Magazine’s top 100 Brilliant Companies of 2012. Describing himself as both a maker and a hacker, manufacturing and design projects spanning nearly two decades have led up to this honor.

Using his Tormach PCNC 1100 to prototype aluminum components for the OCULUS Laptop Conversion Kit—a motorized frame and software combination that converts a small laptop into a telerobotic remotely operated vehicle—Adamson is no stranger to CNC. Well-received by the maker community, the OCULUS Surveillance and Telepresence Robot is reaching a mainstream market. “I’ve been kind of aiming OCULUS at hobbyists, but I’ve been getting quite a few orders from medical companies and small warehouses and offices. It’s a real low cost telepresence robot,” Adamson explained. Using an Arduino programmed microcontroller to drive the motors, the robot is controlled over a WiFi connection by smart phone, tablet, or web browser. Selling his production machine shop just over four years ago, Adamson replaced his production milling center with his home shop garage. He explains, “I sold my custom job shop when the business was winding down. I wanted a change of pace, but couldn’t handle not being able to machine. I’m used to spending 100 grand plus on CNC machines, and was actually pleasantly surprised with how capable the PCNC 1100 is.” Partnering with two of his friends and working full-time on the OCULUS project, Adamson describes Xaxxon Technologies as a network of home garages. “I use the PCNC 1100 for pretty much all of the prototyping. The laptops are lazer cut in production by one of the other guys, but I cut the plastic parts on the mill. I also cut a few little production parts like the aluminum axles and the acrylic mirror.” A resident of Vancouver, Canada, Adamson still makes time for serious fun. Selling mountain bike components and frames he designed and prototyped in his garage, the PCNC 1100 makes several cameo appearances in the photos on his Dark Cycles website. “The bash guards have a post-machining chamfer around them. It takes off the anodizing and gives it a highlighted sort of look. I do that on the Tormach because it’s a single tool operation and it’s pretty good production part for that.” Also volunteering with Tetra Society, a non-profit that makes one off devices for people with disabilities; visit Adamson’s blog to read about a hand-motor-rehab project currently in development. Up next on his project list is a heavy duty version of the OCULUS robot, code name OCULUS Prime.