Blog About

Michael Ferguson

Roboticist, etc.

Fetch Robotics (2014-2017)

As CTO, I led the design and implementation of software and electronics for Fetch and Freight robots. These platforms won the Material Handling Institute (MHI) Best New Innovation Award at MODEX 2016.

I was a major contributor to a number of software milestones including the development of key firmware components, secure bootloaders, hand-eye calibration, and high-level demonistrations of mobility and manipulation that are still part of the research product.

Unbounded Robotics (2013-2014)

As CTO, I led the design of the software and electrical system of the UBR-1 robot platform.

Unbounded didn't make it past the seed round, but we did release some code on GitHub.

Maxwell (2010)

Maxwell is a low-cost mobile manipulator I built as part of my master's thesis. Maxwell won the 2011 AAAI Small Scall Manipulation Challenge. I've made a number of blog posts and a RoboGames paper detailing Maxwell.

Mini Max (2011)

A miniature version of Maxwell. A set of these were built for Siena College. The arm eventually became the "Turtlebot Arm".


Calibration has been an interest of mine for some time. While at Willow Garage I worked on a generic port of the pr2_calibration stack, making it easier for many robots to find their arms. The
calibration stack has been used on robots ranging from Maxwell, to PR2, to robots as part of the ROS-Industrial project.

While at Unbounded Robotics and Fetch Robotics, I worked on a completely new robot_calibration project. This new system is significantly faster and more robust.

PR-MINI (2010)

The overly complex predecessor to Maxwell. Designed as a 60% scale version of the PR2 using Dynamixel servos. See more in this blog post.

SMALdog (2009-2014)

SMALdog is "Sorta-Maybe-Almost-Littledog", a small walking robot platform. The original version used the Arbotix and was able do simple things like jump. A later version has been developed using my Ethbridge board and ROS. The code I developed is on GitHub.

XR-B3 (2008)

Xr-B3 was my last table-top sized mapping robot. The small memory size (2k of ram) required the metric map be only be a small rolling window (about 6ft x 6ft). A topological map was then extracted from the metric map. The sensor update algorithm was based on Histogram In-Motion Mapping (HIMM).

Armadillo (2010)

The Armadillo was a short-lived ArbotiX-based mobile manipulator. It's small base weventually was upsized into Maxwell. The ArbotiX-ROS interface code eventually became the basis of the modern Arbotix ROS wrappers. While Armadillo never did much manipulation, it produce a number of maps.

Crater (2009)

This stupid little $118 robot is the prime example of why you should Keep It Simple Stupid. Intended only to compete in the "low-cost award" category, Crater won the Non-Kit Senior Division at the 2009 Trinity College Fire Fighting Home Robot Contest. See more in this blog post, code on github, and tutorials I wrote.

Issy (2009-2011)

Issy was a small walking robot, with numerous configurations over time. Issy was built around the original ArbotiX robocontroller and won Gold in the first Mech Warfare in 2009 and first place in the 2009 Canadian National Robot Games Walker Challenge. Versions of Issy participated in everything from Fire Fighting Contests to Mech Warfare. There are a number of blog posts on the many versions of Issy.

My later focus with Issy was on dynamic gaits, dynamic balance, and terrain adaptation of walking gaits. The feet were outfitted with FSR sensors, and an IMU was integrated.