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Thread: Advice and opinion about Phantom X for use in theatrical performance

  1. #1

    Exclamation Advice and opinion about Phantom X for use in theatrical performance

    Hello there!

    I have an important question for Phantom X AX III users. Hope you can help me to figure out this.

    My name is David. I run a dance/theater company since 12 years. I do a lot of work with technology; mostly using sensors, Max/msp and smartphone/tablets over stage.

    I want to start a new production, and work with the Phantom X and a dancer. I love this creature, it would have a main role in the play.

    But I have no clue of robotics. Traveling and setting a production to be performed in a given location and at a given date is a lot of responsibility and work. And I write this post to ask you for advice and ask your opinion.

    I know this robot is not a toy plug-and-play. I am wiling to spend two months learning to deal with it. But I can’t become a robotics expert, I must accept that. Also I don’t want! My fields is scenic arts.

    Also I have to deal with many many things before going out to stage, and I want to be sure, the Phantom x is not going to become a crazy problem. I need to be sure and safe when we perform, that it will perform it’s tasks with no problems.

    What’s your experience guys? Do you think this is possible? I read in this forum many cases of people stuck with the robot trying to figure out for days why it doesn't even move.

    If I have a performance, and the robot stops working right before or during the performance, it would be a big big disaster. I would die of a heart attack.

    The ideal thing would be to travel with two Phantom x and with a robot technician who would take care of this. But I have only budget for one robot, and the technician has to be myself.

    Please, let me know what you think. Also if you know any Phantom X in Berlin, so maybe I could meet one in person.

    Thanks a lot in advance!

  2. #2

    Re: Advice and opinion about Phantom X for use in theatrical performance

    "tician" on this board has significant experience using Dynamixel-based robots in stage productions.

    My advise would be to buy two robots, so you have one spare if one breaks. Just think of it as the robot costing twice as much :-(

    The other question is how long a lifetime you get from power-on to battery-dead. You'll want to budget for a few minutes of sitting idle before stage entrance, too. The battery is not easily hot-swappable, either, so you can't do a quick battery swap as a "costume change."

    I think what you're asking can be done, especially when you play within the limitations. Whether it should be done depends on where you fall on the spectrum of "acceptable risk" and "financial commitment."

  3. #3
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    Re: Advice and opinion about Phantom X for use in theatrical performance

    'Commedia Robotica' involved a DARwIn-OP controlled by MAX using the 'TellDarwin' interface with a power tether and steel plates mounted on the feet. The tether was just a barrel jack extension cord to eliminate battery worries since the bot would not be moving much in that production. The steel plates were to permit it to stand in unstable poses on an elevated stage using electromagnets, but it still fell off a few times and caused significant damage that I had to repair, repeatedly. The TellDarwin interface was intended for the DARwIn-OP robot and its framework, so while it offers a native interface to MAX it would require major modifications to operate with any robot not using the DARwIn-OP framework.

    I actually had to spend a couple hours rebuilding parts of the robot the night before the production's weekend because of damage sustained during rehearsals that the theater students did not inform us about earlier - partly because they failed to recognize the severity of the damage. The DARwIn-OP was very easy to damage in this situation because it used metal frames and MX servos while being poorly secured to the top of a platform ~4 feet above the normal stage surface. The MX servos are particularly prone to self-damaging their motors because the motors are a bit overrated and the control algorithm is a bit too slow to react to over-current conditions caused by sudden shock loads (like falling) and/or driving their joints to interference. Combining that with the metal gearset in the MX servos, some servos from that DARwIn-OP had to be replaced completely and several more had to have their gearsets replaced due to damaged gears and/or sheared output splines. Additionally, the aluminum sheet frames of the DARwIn-OP, HROS-1/5, and newer PhantomX are much stiffer than plastic to provide better position control, but will permanently deform much easier than plastic frames because they lack that elastic compliance (metal frames can require replacement instead of just bouncing back to shape like plastic). The aluminum frames also tend to have slightly sharp edges that easily slice though wires and fingers, so be wary of pinch points.

    If the hexapod is not going to be elevated above the normal stage surface, then there should be little risk of mechanical damage unless someone steps on it or it is not well secured during travel/shipping. The AX servos are highly reliable and the motors are not at all prone to self-destructing like the higher power motors in the MX servos. The cables connecting all the servos together are more likely to cause problems because of torn insulation, severed wires, intermittent shorts, and/or loosened connectors. Using properly sized and routed cables, and checking all the cables for damage on a regular schedule should help minimize the occurrence of those problems. The battery of the stock PhantomX is not easily swapped, but others on the forum have made modifications to the layout that permit easier swapping. It is also possible to create a small power and/or communications tether using highly flexible, high strand count ('continuous flex') wire available from places like HobbyKing and Cicoil. The tether for my HROS-1 is ~12 feet long made from two 16AWG wires inside a 3/8"-ID expandable polyester sleeve (~10 feet long) for a very flexible and durable solution.
    Please pardon the pedantry... and the profanity... and the convoluted speech pattern...
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    Re: Advice and opinion about Phantom X for use in theatrical performance

    What are you planning the robot to do during the performance? AX-12 or -18 based? What's the duration of one performance?

    Get a pacemaker.
    Kåre Halvorsen aka Zenta
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  5. #5

    Re: Advice and opinion about Phantom X for use in theatrical performance

    Hallo! Thanks a lot for your responses. @tician, your experience may be very useful to me. The robot would be at floor level.

    @Zenta, wow! It's a pleasure to count with your advice, I got in love with this robot almost two years ago thanks to your videos. And I also thought about writing to you, so I am very pleased to get your opinion/advice.

    I would go for the AX-18 servos (I really like it when the Phanton X runs fast like an animal), and the robot would have as much protagonist as possible during the performance. Just showing it's "personality" and all it's possibilities. I think it would be enough with 10/12 minutes full action in the beginning of the performance. It could rest another 10 minutes and then another run of 15 minutes, not so actively as in the begging.

    How long should it rest before I can change the battery? How much they last at full activity?

    Can I travel by plane with the batteries? We plan to travel a lot.

    I can't afford to buy two robots, so I should have some replacecements for the parts which can break. I'm just more afraid about dealing with all code/program stuff, and also with figuring out a malfunction, since I see, there are a lot of tests to go thru before you know what's wrong, and as I said, I can't become a robot expert.


    Again, thanks a lot for your responses.

    David

  6. #6

    Re: Advice and opinion about Phantom X for use in theatrical performance

    Hallo! Thanks a lot for your responses. @tician, your experience may be very useful to me.
    How much I have to wait before changing batteries after a full use?

    @zenta, it's an honor to count with your advice. I planed to write you. I got in love with this creature thanks to your videos! And I admire so much the work you do with robots.

    I would go for the AX-18, since I find the fast walking movements very interesting for my play. And I suppose these servos not only make it faster, but also stronger and with more movement possibilities?

    The robot would have a 10-15 minutes "solo" appearance in the beginning of the play, showing all it's possibilities. Then it could rest for another 10 minutes, and have a second appearance in which it would move more calm, interacting with the dancer. Lasting this part around 20 minutes.

    Also, is it possible to carry batteries in the airplanes? We plan to travel a lot.

    As I said in my post, I can't afford two robots. I suppose that traveling with a couple of extra servos and cables, etc. would make it safe also.

  7. #7

    Re: Advice and opinion about Phantom X for use in theatrical performance

    Also, is it possible to carry batteries in the airplanes? We plan to travel a lot.
    In the US, the rules are that you either carry a battery as-installed in a factory-made device in checked luggage, or you carry spare batteries in your hand luggage. There's a maximum size for spare batteries that are accepted.

    https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org..._batteries.pdf

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    Re: Advice and opinion about Phantom X for use in theatrical performance

    Jwatte - that was very useful info. I had to do the math myself - 100 Watt/hours at a nominal 12v is about 8300 ma/hours. So I'll be legal hand-carrying 5200 mah batteries to RoboGames 2018 ! Yay!

  9. #9

    Re: Advice and opinion about Phantom X for use in theatrical performance

    You can actually carry up to 160 Wh, but are limited to a maximum of two batteries in the 100-160 Wh range.

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    Re: Advice and opinion about Phantom X for use in theatrical performance

    Standard 2200mAh 3S LiPo should be sufficient for 10-12min. But to be sure I would do a battery replacement for next 10min.
    Kåre Halvorsen aka Zenta
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    Zenta's YouTube channel
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