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Robot Hero

May 31, 2008
By Robert Wolfington III

Pete Nikrin was tired of losing at Guitar Hero to a friend, so he decided to do something about it.

As part of his robotics course at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Granite Falls, Nikrin decided to build a robot that could play Guitar Hero.

“I had been looking for a final project for a while and I wasn’t really too keen on any of the other ideas that people wanted to do,” said Nikrin.

“I was sitting at home playing Guitar Hero, (losing) to a buddy of mine. I decided to build a robot to (beat him).”

Nikrin was part of the Robotics Technician program at Minnesota West, working for a semester to build and program the robot to play the game.

Guitar Hero is a video game that uses a controller shaped like a guitar, using icons on the television telling the player what buttons to push.

Bill Manor, the teacher of the robotics course, said Nirkin’s project drew a lot of attention from his classmates.

“There were many days when half the class was over here,” said Manor. “We didn’t have the computer monitor, we just had a big television.

“There are two or three gamers in here and there were a couple of days when all of a sudden I would look and they were over here playing.”

Manor said the robot uses a video camera inside a mannequin head to identify the icons on the screen that need to be pushed.

By posting a clip on the video-sharing Web site “You Tube,” Nikrin has received a lot of attention for the project — locally and on the national level.

Recently, Nikrin received a call from the “CBS Morning Show” to have him on to talk about his project.

“On a Saturday (a call) woke me up out of a dead sleep,” said Nikrin. “I (didn’t believe it), I thought someone was messing with me. They wanted to do something for the morning show.”

Nikrin said he is waiting to hear back to schedule when he might be on the show.

Manor said he also received a call about the robot from KSTP television out of the Twin Cities.

On Monday, Nikrin and Manor are scheduled to be on KSTP with the robot.

Manor said because the robot is still a work in progress, it is going to take a little work to get the robot ready for its television debut.

“When we bring the robot (to the studio in the Twin Cities) it has to stay stationary,” said Manor. “The lighting will affect the monitor; it all has to be the way it’s going to be. Once it’s programmed we’re not going to move it.”

Nikrin said he is still trying to fine-tune the robot with the goal of making it a mobile unit that can be used to promote the Minnesota West program.

Manor said in the near future the robot will be on display at the Granite Falls campus for people to interact with.

Nikrin said he is happy the robot will be used to help promote the robotics program at Minnesota West.

He said there is still at least one goal he hopes to reach with the project.

“The only reason I wanted to build it was to prove that I could, just to myself,” said Nikrin.

“Now that I’ve done it, I just want to tweak it until it is as good as it can be, until it can beat my friend, then I’ll be happy.”

Article Photos

Photo by Robert Wolfington III
Pete Nikrin of Montevideo works on programming his Guitar Hero-playing robot, a project he built as part of the Robotics Technician program at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Granite Falls. His instructor said he received an “A” for the class.



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