Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Week 4 - Status Update

From last week, I was only able to work about 2/3rds of my planned time, but I have some noteworthy progress:

New equipment!
  • Purchased indoor remote flying toys: Wowwee Flytech Bladestar and a Nano Combat IR Helicopter. Both were only ~$20 on sale at Radio Shack, and my thought was that they had a IR signature that I could detect with a web cam. If I can see it, then I could control it. So the Home Robot could use one of these devices a means to discipline the animals.
  • The Bladestar only worked for it's first flight and then the battery didn't want to charge long. It was very stable compared to the helicopter, but the wings got damage (Styrofoam) and the unit wasn't able to be controlled well anymore. I have plans to get a new one at Radio Shack, after contacting tech support. This unit has potential to be controlled by the Robot / computer system, but the cat was not intimidated. In fact she liked watching it and trying to get it. I wanted to use this to scare the cat and keep her off the counter / table so I guess it's just something that will be not be included to deter the cat... perhaps it can be used to lure the cat away from other things however...
  • On to the helicopter... The helicopter was not easy to control but it was working and I was getting better controlling it. The cat however didn't get scared by it either but did get into batting it. It eventually stopped being stable enough to hover after a few flights and many crashes, and I think it's permanently broken. Do not know what happened but perhaps the main rotor shaft is shifted as Styrofoam is holding it's motor in place. Can't really fix it if the Styrofoam is now bent out of shape. It's a shame that it doesn't work so I'll try to get help from Danbar Toys and see if they can help (but doubt it).
  • Got the Striker II USB Missile Launcher ($26 off of Ebay). This turns out to be a dangerous device. It's not the missiles as these only shoot about 3-5 feet (which is pretty much a joke for a pet deterrent). The onboard laser happens to is very dangerous to the eyes. I was careful not to look into the beam but happened to walk across the beam at my eye level (at the side of my right eye)! What a bad move, as I think my eye could have been wounded as I felt it was affected and felt a bit sore. I guess I'm okay as I can still see and it's not getting worse, but I should have read about laser safety first, as it has a level 3R laser which has at least some risk of damage to eyes.
  • BTW: The USB Missile Launcher was not intimidating or impressive to the dog. See video here. The Missile launcher, while, not an effective deterrent with the missiles could be used to mount a Web cam, and to make distance measurements with the laser.
  • I purchased gear from Radio Shack and Digikey to interface the computer and Linksys router to the Roomba. I'm still waiting for the parts to come from Digikey. Note: Needed to buy a soldering equipment, and components for Voltage conversion for power and data.
  • I do not have a Web site yet, requirements document, or have written any code but will post as I do.
  • The testing I was able to do will lead me to creating a water based canon to stop the animals.

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