Date November 16, 2001 Date
Berkeley Lab Science Beat Berkeley Lab Science Beat

Rolling RAGE in Denver
     Jon Bashor,

Berkeley Lab Science Beat

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At SC2001, the supercomputing conference held this year in Denver from November 10 through 16, visitors were likely to encounter a roaming robot named RAGE. Despite its fearsome moniker, RAGE is intended to be a convivial sort of gadget, 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 debuted 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. Someday, 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, including significant input from Berkeley Lab's MBone multicast technology group. 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 communication.

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 explored the SC2001 exhibit hall and attended 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 Clayton Bagwell.

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