Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Report - Week 3

There was some fair progress...
  • Got the new Roomba battery I ordered. The Roomba worked for a bit! It then stopped working as expected. The new behavior is shown on my You Tube page. May be able to be fixed if it's a broken wire on a sensor, TBD... need to take it apart and perhaps Hack the serial port to figure out the problem.
  • Finally was able to re-flash and "Talk" to the Linksys WRTSL54GS router via telnet and then SSH. I am working on getting it setup as a client vs. an access point.
  • Got the "Hacking Roomba" book and skimmed it. Found some good ideas there and will use this more later.
  • Researched a remote controlled indoor helicopters to be vision controlled from the Roomba device. I saw Jake's Air Hog Havoc helicopter ($25 at Walmart!?!) and was inspired to control it via a computer using a webcam. It would be great to have the Home Robot involved in the control of a helicopter vs. just fire missiles. The helicopter can be vision controlled as I've seen done by others (see links below).
  • Found that there are USB Missile launchers that can be hacked. One model has a laser and then can be used for range finding using the web cam but this model only shoots about 5 feet. The other model can shoot 25 feet. I think that getting both will be helpful for evaluation and for picking one as a base to rotate a web cam on the Roomba.
  • Put in ~25 hours put in since last Monday am tracking my time with a free software tool, Baralga and shooting for 30 hours / week
  • Talked with a few people about this and am evolving ideas.
  • Analyzed the data rate needed to transmit for vision control without compression. There are some challenges to overcome to remotely stream webcam video to a PC for analysis.

To do:
  • Make a financial budget for the project
  • Finish the initial requirements and project plan
  • Setup a web site or find server to host my Robot requirement documents and other notes (may do a home brew setup)
  • Get the Linksys router working as a wireless client on the network
  • Order parts needed: electrical interface hardware, soldiering equipment, missile launcher(s), etc.
  • Get a remote control helicopter!? The one I would like is ~$120.
  • Start developing code
Helicopter vision controlled examples:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Report - Week 2

The first week since I started the blog, I made some progress. Here are some highlights:
  • Started the requirements and the document to track this
  • Received the Roomba 4200 and the Linksys WRTSL54GS Router from Matteo
  • Ordered a new battery (the one I was sent was DOA) for about $40 as the Roomba doesn't do much without a working battery
  • Talked about the project with various people, technical and non-technical. This helped to get new ideas and gauge interest
  • Talked with Matteo about his ideas for his project that included these parts
  • Ordered a Hacking Roomba book
  • Trying to get the router working with OpenWRT, but it didn't respond, so am debugging this currently
Also I:
  • Continued to research existing robot projects to understand the public state of the art
  • Brainstormed and logged the various ideas I have
  • Researched electronics, software, and even mechanical tools
  • Logged books I need , people I can ask for help, etc.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Robot Plans

Welcome to my Robot Blog site! This is my first posting as I have been considering a robot for a few months now and am finally starting the project. The motivation behind this was to learn new things, enhance some skills that I have, to work with a 12-year old, Jake, and to have a cool robot that would help us out with the pets. My wife and I have a cat that likes to climb onto the counters, so I need to have a robot to help out when we're not home. I'm sure the dog needs monitoring and discipline sometimes too.

I plan on doing this project with the help of a 12 year old friend, Jake, who is very interested in robotics and tinkering with things. Jake told me about the Lego Mindstorm NXT Robot and I considered getting one and probably would then load a free custom RTOS on it, where I could program in C++. I decided against this because of the limitations of the abilities of the system and the cost ($225 at least). So I was going to plan on building my own hardware / software solution using the brains of an low-cost embedded microcontroller using a free off the shelf RTOS and programmable in C++ using OOAD techniques.

Before I made my decisions I wanted input from my friend, Matteo, who told me he was willing to give me his robot parts, as he was too busy to work on it now. I gladly accepted, and also he wanted me to blog on it, so he can follow the work, and see what's going on with it.

This robot would be able to move around the house, see using a Web cam, record audio, fire a few missiles, and all be controlled wireless from a PC or over the Internet. I would like the robot to have a programmed assignment to monitor the pets, and keep them from doing bad stuff as well.

The parts I am getting sent:
Part I want to get as well:
I plan to be regularly updating this (probably weekly) with various project plans, technical information, and multimedia.