Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Roombinator - Milestone #1

Major milestone this past weekend on developing an attack robot from a Roomba. After months of preparation, false starts and failures, all the hardware (except the industrial-strength "laser") was functioning as a single, untethered, stand-alone unit.

It's pretty ugly and unbalanced: it is using cardboard boxes and velcro to hold it all together and I just stuck things in the most convenient places. Turns out that the auxiliary battery is all the way at back, which might be good if I can get it to do some wheelies, but otherwise is not good.

See the ugliness for yourself in the photos. His name is "Sparky".

First picture is from the front, second from the back, and third is the first picture taken from Sparky's webcam after attaining his initial freedom.

Sparky currently consists of the iRobot's Roomba (Discover SE) itself for locomotion, a Creative Instant (VF-0400) webcam for vision (no link here because the Creative web site sucks), a Lynxmotion pan-tilt head and SSC-32 servo controller for moving the webcam around, and a Linksys WRTSL54GS wireless router for the brains (which runs Linux via openwrt). There's also a special Lantronix WiPort wireless device that drives the Roomba and pan-tilt servos (via serial interfaces), while the linksys router operates the webcam and sends pictures back over its own wireless connection. The linksys router is powered by 8-AA batteries, while everything else is powered from the Roomba battery itself.

This was all only remotely controlled through a simple web interface (php), but getting all the hardware build, working and connected was a challenge. Next up is to start refining the remote control software and writing the software to make it fully autonomous.

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