Personal Robot and Humanoid with Autonomous Mobility

- Pratham (Sanskrit for "the first") is an Experiential Telepresence System, an ingenious Humanoid Robot built by India Innovation Labs for the "Digital Hampi" Project.


This work took place between January 2011 and July 2012 at India Innovation Labs, Bangalore. The project is part of the Digitial Hampi initiative which was launched in mid 2010 by Mahabharata Samshodhana Pratishthanam, a non-profit organization committed to preserving India's ancient history and heritage.


Digital Hampi aims at holistically resurrecting the UNESCO world heritage site of Hampi to provide a fully immersive and rich experience of our heritage. It is a unique collaborative initiative to bring together diverse cutting-edge technologies into a cultural heritage preservation and promotion application.

Hampi Ruins
Hampi - a UNESCO World Heritage site in Northern Karnataka, India


In November 2009, our team was invited to the prestigious TED Conference in Mysore, India to present our work to an international audience.

Digital Hampi at TED India
Digital Hampi at TED India, 2009

At TED, we showcased an Augmented Reality Travel Guide, a digital time machine that takes travellers back into the past to see the empire in all its glory. Since the conference, the Digital Hampi initiative has attracted support from a number of private, public and educational institutions.

Azim Premji interacting with PRatham
Dr. Azim Premji (Founder and Chairman, Wipro) interacting with Pratham


I was one of first engineers to join the Digital Hampi team at India Innovation Labs. My role was to bring ideas to life, through building numerous proof of concepts and functional prototypes. I was part of a team of 5 engineers who built Pratham. I worked on every aspect of the process - physical and hardware prototyping, software and hardware architecture, electronic circuit designs and several robot applications.


“Exploration and Implementation of a Next Generation Telepresence System”

— Budihal, R; Mohanan, N; Anand, S.A; Kamat, S.S

Our publication on Experiential Telepresence System won the Best Long Paper Award at ANTS 2011, 5th IEEE International Conference on Advanced Networks and Telecommunication Systems, Bangalore.


In an Experiential Telepresence System, extra knowledge gathered from diverse sensing systems (sensors + smart apps) is augmented over the standard audio/video feed to convey more information than traditional telepresence systems. Our robot can detect faces, recognize speakers, interpret emotions, collect environmental information and fuse them together to create a rich, immersive telepresence experience for the operator.


Our Experiential Telepresence System is a 3-tier architecture consisting of Pratham (the Robot), a Collective Intelligence Platform on the cloud, and an Experience Center.

The Experiential Telepresence System
System Architecture for Experiential Telepresence System and Humanoid Robot

Pratham - the Humanoid Robot

Pratham stands for Personal Robot and Telepresence Humanoid with Autonomous Mobility. It is designed as an anthropomorphic agent, since we believe this form enables the robot to maintain a social and emotional connect with the people in interacts.

The Experiential Telepresence System
Pratham - the Humanoid Robot

The Experience Center

To create a fully immersive experience, we decided to use a head gear (Vuzix VR920) embedded with head-tracking sensors and an off-the shelf 6-axis joystick controller. The head tracking sensors detect the user's head orientation, and then mimick the same pose on the robot's head, so the robot is always looking in the same direction as the user.

Overall Architecture
A user controls Pratham using a joystick
Overall Architecture
The Headgear - Vuzix VR920
Overall Architecture
A user watching the video feed on the headgear


Pratham also features two modes of operation - manual and autonomous. In manual mode, the user operates the robot using a joystick. The robot is fitted with obstacle detection sensors to provide navigation assistance by over-riding control in case of emergency. The autonomous mode provides a user with a guided tour of the location.


Overall Architecture
Pratham's User Interface (mock-up)


We built the mould for the outer shell using high-density thermacol slabs which are used for packaging and insulation purposes. We used different wood-carving tools such as chisels, saws and different grade sandpapers to create a smooth finish for the mould.

The Experiential Telepresence System
Creating the mould using high-density thermacol slabs and wood-carving tools

This mould was used as a negative to create hollow FRP (Fibre-Reinforced Plastc) shells for the exterior. FRP shells are inexpensive, durable and have a high strength-to-weight ratio.

The Experiential Telepresence System
FRP (Fibre-Reinforced Plastic) is used to make the body from the mould

The hardware modules were built and tested separately at first on smaller platforms (using Arduinos, Dynamixel motors, Logitech Webcams and various off-the-shelf electronic components). The system was designed to be flexible and modular, and was built using ROS (and open-source Robot Operating System).

The Experiential Telepresence System
Hardware modules for the base and head are tested separately and integrated into ver 0.1 (right)

All the components were housed inside the FRP shell, and we tested every module once again, individually and as an integrated system. Minor adjustments were made to the shell to allow for ventilation and wheel alignment. Since the mould was hand-made, it wasn't exactly symmetrical, due to which we had to compensate for misalignment of the wheels.

The Experiential Telepresence System
All modules are housed inside FRP shell and tested again

We also created several 3D renders of the robot. These renders helped us decide between colors and graphics for the final look of the robot.

The Experiential Telepresence System
3D renders for the final look of the robot

The body was painted at a local car-repair workshop. The graphic art was printed on sticker paper and pasted on to the body later.

The Experiential Telepresence System
The FRP shell getting a custom paint job at a local car-repair workshop

Once the paint-job was complete, the system was assembled together and tested continuously for stability and performance each time new functionalities were added to the robot.

The Experiential Telepresence System
Getting Pratham ready for a demo at Wipro


A few possible use cases for Pratham are shown in context below

The Experiential Telepresence System
Education using Telepresence Systems
The Experiential Telepresence System
Education using Telepresence Systems
The Experiential Telepresence System
Telepresence Tours
The Experiential Telepresence System