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zack
04-14-2008, 07:44 PM
Hello!
I'm mainly a software engineer bitten by the robotics bug! I'm interested mainly in programming. What robotic system would you recommend?

I saw the speecys, perfect for a software guy, but the price is waay too high. Something more reasonable?

Zack

Adrenalynn
04-14-2008, 07:51 PM
Do you have a budget in mind, and a "goal"? What interests you - humanoids, crawlers, wheel/tracked platforms for mapping, flying robots, ... ? From kits to roll-your-own parts, the opportunities to explore are amazing these days, imho!

Eric
04-14-2008, 07:58 PM
From a software side.... 3 words
Phidgets, phidgets, phidgets!
Take a look at the tutorials on phidgets and you'll see. It's the quickest way for an SE like you (and me) to get off and rolling!

Matt
04-14-2008, 08:07 PM
http://www.trossenrobotics.com/stinger-robot-kit.aspx :)

mr-sk
04-14-2008, 08:35 PM
Hey Zack,

I'm also a software engineer bitten by the robot bug. I just ordered the SRV-1 and I *hope* that's good for coding.

It looks excellent, running linux and c compiler, plus support for python, .net, etc.

I'll let you know how it turns out..should be arriving tomorrow!!!!

@Matt - I noticed you posted the Stinger, but I don't see a lot of documentation on setting up the accessories...looks pretty challenging. Maybe you can provide additional information about the robot..or some websites of people that have set it up and expanded it.


- sk

Adrenalynn
04-14-2008, 09:34 PM
http://www.trossenrobotics.com/stinger-robot-kit.aspx :)

Do you guys have overall measurement specs - absolute height-length-width - on the kit? I didn't see them, and that's always a concern for me. ;)

Thanks!

zack
04-15-2008, 06:12 AM
Do you have a budget in mind, and a "goal"? What interests you - humanoids, crawlers, wheel/tracked platforms for mapping, flying robots, ... ? From kits to roll-your-own parts, the opportunities to explore are amazing these days, imho!

Budget is around $700, if it is a uber cool robotics kit maybe slightly more. Don't have any preference on the kind of robot ... haven't formed an opinion since I'm quite new to robotics!

zack
04-15-2008, 06:13 AM
Hey Zack,

I'm also a software engineer bitten by the robot bug. I just ordered the SRV-1 and I *hope* that's good for coding.

It looks excellent, running linux and c compiler, plus support for python, .net, etc.

I'll let you know how it turns out..should be arriving tomorrow!!!!

@Matt - I noticed you posted the Stinger, but I don't see a lot of documentation on setting up the accessories...looks pretty challenging. Maybe you can provide additional information about the robot..or some websites of people that have set it up and expanded it.


- sk

Thanks SK! I will be looking forward to your posts!

zack
04-15-2008, 06:15 AM
From a software side.... 3 words
Phidgets, phidgets, phidgets!
Take a look at the tutorials on phidgets and you'll see. It's the quickest way for an SE like you (and me) to get off and rolling!

'Phidgets' - that's new to me! Will check that out.

zack
04-15-2008, 06:18 AM
http://www.trossenrobotics.com/stinger-robot-kit.aspx :)

That does look neat! Adding this to my list!

hgordon
04-15-2008, 08:31 AM
I'm also a software engineer bitten by the robot bug. I just ordered the SRV-1 and I *hope* that's good for coding.

It looks excellent, running linux and c compiler, plus support for python, .net, etc.

I'll let you know how it turns out..should be arriving tomorrow!!!!
- sk

sk -

All of the SRV-1 code is open-source. You'll find download links to the firmware and compiler toolchains at http://www.surveyor.com/blackfin/ . To get started, make certain to also take a look at SRV-1 support in Roborealm - http://www.roborealm.com/help/Surveyor_SRV1.php

By the way, we're in process of adding an on-board Lisp interpreter to the robot, in case that sort of thing interests you.

hg

Dave
04-15-2008, 11:10 AM
Do you guys have overall measurement specs - absolute height-length-width - on the kit? I didn't see them, and that's always a concern for me. ;)

Thanks!


Length: 11.6 inches (294.6 mm)
Width: 10.3 inches (261.6 mm)
Height: 2.5 inches (63.5 mm)
Weight: 1 lb, 15 ounces. (31 ounces)
Ground Clearance: .62 inches (15.7 mm)

They're all the way at the bottom of the page, after the pictures. Come to think of it, that's a really weird place to put the dimensions of a product. I'll fix that.

Adrenalynn
04-15-2008, 11:54 AM
[OT, apologies to the OP] Dang you're quick! I went to go check how I could have been so silly as to miss them - and poof! The page was already updated. Could you guys slow it down? You're making me look bad with the boss. :P You're also making everyone else look bad with the whole "get the product to the customer when you promised". I ordered various and sundry stuff 3 day from Trossen and several other companies. Yours is sitting about 15mi from my house waiting to be delivered tomorrow, two other companies are lost entirely, and one is going to be a week late...

My apologies for having asked the obvious without performing RT[whole]FM though...

The "11.5, give or take" seems to be a common theme. It's also invariably about an inch longer than I need... [shrug] Machining and building ones own platform isn't the end of the world. It does look really cool, though!

Dave
04-15-2008, 12:22 PM
I noticed you posted the Stinger, but I don't see a lot of documentation on setting up the accessories...looks pretty challenging. Maybe you can provide additional information about the robot..or some websites of people that have set it up and expanded it.

Depends what accessories you want... It's mostly a matter of learning how to interface with the Serializer. I won't get too deep into that right now, because Alex has more experience with the software end of that and could probably explain it better.

To be honest, we don't hear much chatter from Stinger and Traxster owners, which is a real shame. The RoboticsConnection forums are kind of quiet (probably because they don't have a chat room, blogs, wicked photo galleries, contests, or a questionably-legal radio station ;)), but here's a few cool-looking projects, though they're a bit sparse on the details:

http://www.roboticsconnection.com/userForums/Topic321-24-1.aspx
http://www.roboticsconnection.com/userForums/Topic74-9-1.aspx

(^^Bonus: second thread has a really cute dog in it)

Dave
04-15-2008, 12:41 PM
Dang you're quick! I went to go check how I could have been so silly as to miss them - and poof! The page was already updated.

I am the spec ninja.


The "11.5, give or take" seems to be a common theme. It's also invariably about an inch longer than I need... [shrug] Machining and building ones own platform isn't the end of the world. It does look really cool, though!

Well, omitting the front bumper would save you about an inch.

Adrenalynn
04-15-2008, 01:18 PM
In my experience, I'd personally consider something other than the Traxster. It is absolutely beautifully designed in every way until you get to the tracks, which are beyond abysmal. Sorry - I just calls-em likes I sees 'em. *There is some chance I just got two bad sets of tracks in a row. This is only personal experience with a single unit/two track units.

We broke and dropped the tracks 16 times in three days. They were incapable of handling an 11/16" quarter-round reliably. All the drive force is distributed to two points of soft cheap plastic measuring 0.10" +/- .015" observed deviation. The torque generated by the included gear motors can snap the tracks when "super-spinning" in place on even a moderately grippy surface (like level exterior concrete pad). Their recommended procedure of painting the tracks with plasticoat for grip enhancement just makes the problem worse. I ended-up spending another $40 + $20s/h for extra tracks, and the night before competition, I was up all night plastic welding every link four times, and then I further reinforced every link four times with JB Weld. PITA...

The amount of tension applied to the tracks at assembly made little difference, but we tried every imaginable combination measuring with a force meter each time. The drive train was assembled square to within 0.07mm (measured with a LaserView displacement laser)

Again - it's beautifully machined and engineered, easy to build, nicely feature-rich at the price, has gobs of power. But if you drop the tracks over even tiny obstacles - what's the point of a tracked platform?

I like the look of the Stinger better myself...

[Disclosure: contact points measured with a 200 series Brown & Sharpe gearless digital micrometer, certified. "Squareness" quoted measured with a Laser-View XLS40 +/- 0.1Ám - tolerance probably lower due to deviation in factory tolerance on the individual track segments.]

Adrenalynn
04-15-2008, 01:23 PM
>>I am the spec ninja.

That explains everything. ;)

>>Well, omitting the front bumper would save you about an inch.

Aha! Good info, thanks! I'll add it to the mental list.

Alex
04-15-2008, 01:59 PM
hey Zack, welcome to the TRC! Be sure to introduce yourself (http://forums.trossenrobotics.com/showthread.php?t=1394):D



I'm mainly a software engineer bitten by the robotics bug! I'm interested mainly in programming. What robotic system would you recommend?What sort of programming languages can you develop in? Phidgets are really awesome because you can basically develop in any language you want. There are API's for C/C++, Java, .NET, etc.



'Phidgets' - that's new to me! Will check that out.Just an FYI, here's a link to our Phidgets grid page which shows all of the Phidgets products:
http://www.trossenrobotics.com/phidgets.aspx



I noticed you posted the Stinger, but I don't see a lot of documentation on setting up the accessories...looks pretty challenging. Maybe you can provide additional information about the robot..or some websites of people that have set it up and expanded it.I'd really have to see what languages you know before I start recommending robots. The Stinger is a great system, but is mainly for .NET developers (which I am:)).

zack
04-15-2008, 03:21 PM
Thanks Alex! Java/C/C++/Python are all fine with me. Not a big fan of .NET, but I can get by with VB/.NET if there is no other option. (I use a Mac, if I *must* use .NET, I need to switch to parallels VM on the mac to run windows. Not a big deal, but PITA nevertheless!)

Just by looking at the info posted on this thread, I'm tempted by SRV-1 and of course phidgets. I see the community support for SRV is awesome. I don't see that kind of participation for other robot kits.

Alex
04-15-2008, 04:53 PM
Just by looking at the info posted on this thread, I'm tempted by SRV-1 and of course phidgets. I see the community support for SRV is awesome. I don't see that kind of participation for other robot kits.

Yep, given you're languages of choice are Java, C, C++ & Python, I'd recommend one of these two as well:) The SRV-1 is an absolutely incredible system especially now with the WiFi. Phidgets are really cool too and have a ton of flexibility and potential to build much larger systems. It's a hard choice between the two...

zack
04-15-2008, 05:31 PM
What about lego mindstorm? That seems to be the most reviewed (very good reviews too) on Amazon, yet this forum is pretty silent on this kit.

LinuxGuy
04-15-2008, 06:00 PM
All of the SRV-1 code is open-source. You'll find download links to the firmware and compiler toolchains at http://www.surveyor.com/blackfin/ . To get started, make certain to also take a look at SRV-1 support in Roborealm - http://www.roborealm.com/help/Surveyor_SRV1.php
I very much want to get an SRV-1. :happy: Is it true there is a new wheeled base coming out for it? Will there still be an option to have the tracked base? One of the things I like about the SRV-1 is the tracked base and computing power available on it. I just wish it had a bit more RAM (64 MB or 128 MB) and a lot more Flash (128 MB).


By the way, we're in process of adding an on-board Lisp interpreter to the robot, in case that sort of thing interests you.
Why did you pick Lisp? I'm real curious. Python (http://www.python.org) (which I know) and Lua (http://www.lua.org/) can also be embedded. :happy: I've started learning Smalltalk (Squeak (http://www.squeak.org)) also. I have not checked Lua (http://www.lua.org/) out yet, but know it is used in quite a few places.

8-Dale

Wingzero01w
04-15-2008, 06:25 PM
I have the kit, and well its good, but not great. I learned programming in a GUI and i did a tutorial on java with it, but after that... the fact of being limited to 3 servos really got annoying and i ended up stoping to use it. I know theres expansion boards for it but its just not worth it to me. I find that the best starting kit for robotics is the BOE-BOT, it has a very very good tutorial and explains many concepts. The only thing the NXT taught me was how to make routines and thats about it.

Alex
04-15-2008, 06:57 PM
What about lego mindstorm? That seems to be the most reviewed (very good reviews too) on Amazon, yet this forum is pretty silent on this kit.

The mindstorms kit is an excellent kit, but how much you learn from it really depends upon your age. I have to agree with wing, the BOE-BOT is a very impressive kit and has some incredible documentation. You'll learn a ton about robotics with the BOE-BOT. This isn't based upon my own experience though, just what I've read in forums and from what our customers have told me.

LinuxGuy
04-15-2008, 07:15 PM
The mindstorms kit is an excellent kit, but how much you learn from it really depends upon your age. I have to agree with wing, the BOE-BOT is a very impressive kit and has some incredible documentation.
I looked at the BOE-BOT when I was getting ready to start working on my first robot, which became W.A.L.T.E.R. I decided there was not enough room on the chassis to mount stuff and opted for a different kit from another source (a 3 deck, two wheeled, octabot kit).


You'll learn a ton about robotics with the BOE-BOT. This isn't based upon my own experience though, just what I've read in forums and from what our customers have told me.
I almost bought a Trekker kit when I was starting out, and I still find it to be an interesting unit, but I've outgrew CR servos pretty fast as W.A.L.T.E.R. kept gaining weight (I told him "Not so much iron!"). I've certainly learned a lot in the process of building and rebuilding W.A.L.T.E.R. and the "L" will soon come into play, since I have a nice collection of I2C EEPROMs.

That Stinger Robot Kit w/ Serializer (http://www.trossenrobotics.com/stinger-robot-kit.aspx) looks real intersting.. It should be illegal to stock so many cool toys! :veryhappy:

8-Dale

Wingzero01w
04-15-2008, 07:59 PM
Im still working on my Boe-bot and its going to be the base of one of my projects, without this kit id probably be completely confused on what people talk about on forums like this. Other people may have a different opinion but i feel that the price for the nxt isnt worth it compared to the BOE-bot. Though, i have no idea about the surveyor; ive seen alot about it but didnt really look like a starting robot IMO.

hgordon
04-16-2008, 02:06 AM
I very much want to get an SRV-1. :happy: Is it true there is a new wheeled base coming out for it? Will there still be an option to have the tracked base? One of the things I like about the SRV-1 is the tracked base and computing power available on it. I just wish it had a bit more RAM (64 MB or 128 MB) and a lot more Flash (128 MB).

Why did you pick Lisp? I'm real curious. Python (http://www.python.org) (which I know) and Lua (http://www.lua.org/) can also be embedded. :happy: I've started learning Smalltalk (Squeak (http://www.squeak.org)) also. I have not checked Lua (http://www.lua.org/) out yet, but know it is used in quite a few places.
8-Dale
We're working with another company, Inertia Labs, to produce a base that has 4-wheel-drive with the existing treads or with wheels. Footprint will be about the same. However, you're not limited to using our base - a number of our users are interfacing the Blackfin controller to other bases such as Lynxmotion TriTrack or Lynxmotion A4WD1.

As regards memory, that was a cost decision. For Linux, the 4MB is pretty minimal, but for running our standard "bare metal" firmware, it's more than enough. In any case, the Blackfin is a *great* processor, and there are other companies building boards based on Blackfin that have more memory, so you should be able to move up if you need to.

With regard to Lisp, there's actually already a small C interpreter built into the SRV-1 bare metal firmware (I even had Basic at one point, but ditched it, and I considered Lua). Python is built into our Linux image. There's also a small neural network engine in the firmware, though it hasn't been hooked up to an sensors or actuators yet. However, I wanted to experiment with a functional language as an alternative to a procedural language like C. Lisp/Scheme is the granddaddy of all functional languages, and it seemed like a worthwhile tool for building an adaptive world model, though there's still a lot of work to be done to integrate the interpreter with robot functions.

Mostly, the firmware is there to provide examples to users on how to program the processor and camera and other peripherals, as all source code is provided. There are a lot of university groups now using the SRV-1, and I believe that a large percentage are using the firmware as provided, but expect some are doing their own custom thing, and that's fine. Mostly, I built the SRV-1 Blackfin because it's what I wanted in a robot controller, and I'm glad to hear when others find it useful.

tom_chang79
04-16-2008, 02:10 AM
The SRV-1 reminds me of the rovers that was in the example in the Mindstorm RIS 2.0 kit. I have the RIS 2.0 kit, and I'm still biased towards this kit then the NXT. I wasn't too impressed with some of the pieces of the NXT since it seems like it deviated away from the standard lego set and became more purely Technic-style pieces. But this is just my opinion on it.

I know that Lego wants to move away from the RIS Mindstorms since when they rolled out the NXT, the RIS sections on their site have been shoved to another link with the NXT taking the center stage. The NXT brick is quite impressive, and you can bet that there's a TON of people playing with this kit as this is probably the most available robotic kit, they sell them at Toys R Us, Fry's Electronic, here at Trossen, etc...

I know from experience that I've more then enjoyed the RIS kit of the Mindstorm. I've used Open Source things like BrickOS on it, and had some good success of running real-time OS environments to do some neat things... I know that the interface for the NXT was opened up from the beginning, I personally haven't followed it much but I'm sure there are LOTS of activities on it since within the first year, there were TONS of literature published on this subject...

Back to the topic, my opinion of a great bot for programmers? Well, I've been programming for quite some time now and I can say my opinion would be something more like what Lynxmotion offers... You can start with basic, standard servos that are pulse-width modulation controlled, and write your own environment from scratch with the Basic-Atom IDE for chips like the Atom Pro.

I know I had tons of fun creating a ton of definition files and high-level functions that translated down to simple commands for the servos...

The Johnny-5 kit is quite formiddable. It's tracked based so you can focus more of your programming effort on sensors, decision making, and etc, rather then on walking gaits and such...

LinuxGuy
04-16-2008, 03:36 AM
We're working with another company, Inertia Labs, to produce a base that has 4-wheel-drive with the existing treads or with wheels. Footprint will be about the same. However, you're not limited to using our base - a number of our users are interfacing the Blackfin controller to other bases such as Lynxmotion TriTrack or Lynxmotion A4WD1.
I've seen the video of the Blackfin Camera Board (http://www.surveyor.com/blackfin/) on a TriTrak, which is very cool. I could even put one on W.A.L.T.E.R., and in fact I am planning to do that at some point - mounted on a pan/tilt or 3DOF arm with other sensors. I just have to figure out how to mount it where I want it to be. I would dedicate the Blackfin Camera Board (http://www.surveyor.com/blackfin/) to vision processing in this case. It's less expensive than the CmuCam3 (http://www.cmucam.org). :happy: I did not see the Blackfin Camera Board (http://www.surveyor.com/blackfin/) in Trossen's product list though, but could have missed it.


As regards memory, that was a cost decision. For Linux, the 4MB is pretty minimal, but for running our standard "bare metal" firmware, it's more than enough. In any case, the Blackfin is a *great* processor, and there are other companies building boards based on Blackfin that have more memory, so you should be able to move up if you need to.
I've always been interested in the Blackfin processor and have been watching development of the SRV-1 for quite awhile. I saw one for the first time at a PARTS (http://www.portlandrobotics.org) meeting and was amazed at how small it is - perfect for a swarm-bot. Swarming is in W.A.L.T.E.R.'s future at some point, probably as a Swarm Control Node.


With regard to Lisp, there's actually already a small C interpreter built into the SRV-1 bare metal firmware (I even had Basic at one point, but ditched it, and I considered Lua). Python is built into our Linux image.
I am committed to using Python (http://www.python.org) for W.A.L.T.E.R. right now, and have already found various packages (also written in Python), including the Phenny IRC Bot (http://inamidst.com/phenny/), DJango (http://www.djangoproject.org) for web presence, and hopefully PyRo (http://pyrorobotics.org) for overall control and integration. Unforunately,
PyRo (http://pyrorobotics.org/) seems to be more tied to being on a full fledge PC type robot and I am not sure I can separate the robot control engine from the GUI and everything else so it can run on W.A.L.T.E.R.


There's also a small neural network engine in the firmware, though it hasn't been hooked up to an sensors or actuators yet.
Hmmmm, this could go right along with swarming very nicely. I am very bit into sensor experimentation and integration. You can see what I've done so far in early development videos of W.A.L.T.E.R. (originally called Octabot). I think it would be very interesting to have an SRV-1 running full Python (http://www.python.org) natively using a very minimal Linux 2.6.* core, with a neural net.


However, I wanted to experiment with a functional language as an alternative to a procedural language like C. Lisp/Scheme is the granddaddy of all functional languages, and it seemed like a worthwhile tool for building an adaptive world model, though there's still a lot of work to be done to integrate the interpreter with robot functions.
I have started learning Smalltalk (http://www.smalltalk.org/main/) for similar reasons, but Squeak (http://www.squeak.org) doesn't seem to be up to the tasks I need to do for robotics quite yet. I am very interested in using a more AI type object oriented programming language/environment for robotics. I'm just getting into behavior based robotics now and have started experimenting with Subsumption.


Mostly, the firmware is there to provide examples to users on how to program the processor and camera and other peripherals, as all source code is provided. There are a lot of university groups now using the SRV-1, and I believe that a large percentage are using the firmware as provided, but expect some are doing their own custom thing, and that's fine. Mostly, I built the SRV-1 Blackfin because it's what I wanted in a robot controller, and I'm glad to hear when others find it useful.
The Open Source aspect of the SRV-1 is very nice, and it's right in line with where I want to go with my robotics stuff. I am going to take a peek at the SRV-1 source code, because I think I can learn from it even though I don't own an SRV-1 or Blackfin Camera Board (http://www.surveyor.com/blackfin/). You've definitely raised my interest level in these. :veryhappy:

8-Dale

hgordon
04-16-2008, 08:54 AM
I've seen the video of the Blackfin Camera Board (http://www.surveyor.com/blackfin/) on a TriTrak, which is very cool. I could even put one on W.A.L.T.E.R., and in fact I am planning to do that at some point - mounted on a pan/tilt or 3DOF arm with other sensors. I just have to figure out how to mount it where I want it to be. I would dedicate the Blackfin Camera Board (http://www.surveyor.com/blackfin/) to vision processing in this case. It's less expensive than the CmuCam3 (http://www.cmucam.org). :happy: I did not see the Blackfin Camera Board (http://www.surveyor.com/blackfin/) in Trossen's product list though, but could have missed it.

Hmmmm, this could go right along with swarming very nicely. I am very bit into sensor experimentation and integration. You can see what I've done so far in early development videos of W.A.L.T.E.R. (originally called Octabot). I think it would be very interesting to have an SRV-1 running full Python (http://www.python.org) natively using a very minimal Linux 2.6.* core, with a neural net.
8-Dale

I'm not certain that the Trossen folks know that the Blackfin boards can be sold separately from the complete robot, but I'll let them know.

We have briefly considered running Python on "bare metal" without the Linux kernel, since we already have the core interface functions written for our existing firmware. This isn't on the near-term task list, but it is an interesting idea.