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Autononmous Robots
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starfish_mod



Joined: 28 Jun 2004
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Autononmous Robots

I am looking into building some antweight autonomous bots for fun (and they are cheper to build than buying radio hardware Very Happy ) and I have been thinking about some of the rulesets that may be required for autonmous bot building, however since the ABBL rules set is down I though I would pose some thoughts regarding this to everbody...

The Arena:
Due to the bot requiring sensors as it's abilty to 'see' it's surroundings the Arena used for Autonomous bots may need to be different. i.e different colours for the walls or specific colours for the competing bots etc.
My thoughts come from the ability to buy/build sensor based on distance and colour are a lot easier to use than trying to 3D map your surrounding area...

I was also thinking about if overhead cameras would be allowed to direct the robots movement for example....

Also in Auto vs non-auto scenarios should things like handicapps like directional sensors on the non-auto be a possibility, althugh I don't think this would be probable.

More thoughts as I come up with them Smile

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Andrew
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Post Mon Jun 28, 2004 1:01 pm 
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marto
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So just had a few ideas for building some autonomous stuff. Basically similar to the above. So things have come quite a bit further since the post about but thought I would put my ideas up here anyway.

The best and easiest way I think to run autonomous bots is with an overhead camera.
Image processing is relatively easy to do these days and with a few distinct colours on the bots and a grid on the floor working out heading and position should be possible.

So once you have heading and position of both the bots the only other real problem is working out a strategy on how to attack them.

The other key idea I had was that the best way to do this would be to hack a hobbyking TX simply through a microcontroller with DAC or it may even be possible to do it directly through the USB link on the 6ch version. (This would be really nice as it would mean no hardware hacking plus would be great for other robotic projects)

What this would mean is that the only changes you would have to make to your robot would be maybe a coat of paint in the correct colours or stick on a sheet of paper. Then rebind the RX and away you go.


So only additional required hardware would be just a webcam or camera and those are rather cheap these days. Do up a nice API and we can finally convince all the UNIs that they aren't just toys anymore, they are tools for teaching AI, that may or may not destroy each other.

Still lots of problems which I can see and many more which would be found in developing it but an idea. Odds are I will not have any chance to develop anything in the next 6-12 months but thought it was worth revisiting.

Steve
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Post Thu Mar 11, 2010 9:13 pm 
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dyrodium
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Most epic thread necromance. ever. Laughing (I can't help with autonomous stuffs though ... xD)
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Post Thu Mar 11, 2010 9:59 pm 
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marto
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Well it was there. So thought it was better than making new one.
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Post Thu Mar 11, 2010 10:19 pm 
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Spockie-Tech
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ewww, a 6yo thread ! Definite Necromancer award for that one ! Smile

Still, as long as its not full of junk irrelevant to the new topic, I suppose theres nothing wrong with reusing it Smile

on topic, a couple of links for those interested in this area
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_robotics

have a look at the links at the bottom.
The Willow Garage site is one I have looked at before.
Vision systems are complicated !

Open source robotics are cool, saves you from having to repeat work that others have already done.
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Post Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:31 am 
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marto
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If you are doing image processing openCV which is intel's open source image processing library is what you want to be looking at. There is also quite a few built in matlab functions which are nice though very very not free.
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Post Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:26 pm 
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Valen
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might be good to look at the cuda stuff, there are python bindings for it so you can get decent performance and still have a rapid development language.
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Post Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:26 pm 
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marto
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http://www.iheartrobotics.com/2009/10/circle-detection-with-harpia.html

Harpia looks pretty easy to work with and can export C code. So might have time to do that sometime later this week.
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Post Mon Mar 15, 2010 8:51 pm 
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marto
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Just had a quick play and was able to track a green square in an image after about 10 minutes of trying. Its just like block functions. Definitely not real time but might be able to do something about that.
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Post Mon Mar 15, 2010 9:24 pm 
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marto
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Ok so latest idea was to use the trim settings on the hobbyking via the usb cable to control the bots via a PC.

It works but there is a few issues.

- Mixing in the radios will not work. Though this is pretty trivial given its a PC driving it.
- The trim settings are only about 40 - 60% of the servo range so might cause issues with triggering and flipping distance.

This limit may be able to be worked around or it may be built in to the implementation. (It may not be a coincidence that the range is +120 -120, and the range of an 8bit signed register is -128 , +128) I have logged some of the serial PC data but will need to look at it a bit more before I can work out what its doing.


Mind you its not a very hard hack to make it work in hardware. Atmel connected to serial to computer. With PWM through RC filter on the pots. But it would be a lot nicer if you could keep your remote unopened and still play round with an autonomous bot.
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Post Tue Mar 23, 2010 8:48 pm 
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Spockie-Tech
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Do any of the radios have a "Trainer cable" socket ? Used by Instructors to link to a students radio, so they can give control to a second radios joysticks and quickly grab it back if the student is about to bury the model.

I'm not sure about newer Spread Spectrum radios, but IIRC, the older radios trainer cable socket was basically a serial servo PPM stream of 8 channels - it should be fairly easy to emulate that with a micro.

The you can just jam the trainer switch in position (they are usually spring return) to enable external inputs to the radio.
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Post Tue Mar 23, 2010 10:02 pm 
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marto
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I am looking at the hobbyking radio. It has a "Trainer" socket but I dont think it is used for much other than programming it. I may be wrong but I have never seen it used as an actual trainer. I am downloading the manual now to check.
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Post Tue Mar 23, 2010 10:26 pm 
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Glen
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thats what it is im sure. i plug it into the usb adaptor and fly the G3 flight sim with it. ive got the pin out for it saved somewhere if you need it. think i even have the sch for the entire radio as well
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Post Tue Mar 23, 2010 10:30 pm 
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marto
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Well receiving is no problem but how do you override the output? I logged the trainer input. Maybe I should just try it with two tx's.
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Post Tue Mar 23, 2010 10:49 pm 
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Spockie-Tech
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Most radios have a trainer switch on them. They output their current servo-pos stream on the trainer port all the time unless the trainer switch is enabled, in which case they read from it instead and use the input in place of the joysticks.

I had a couple of Futaba 7Cs hooked up that way, the trainer cable was just a straight wire (maybe with x-over on Tx/RX ?) from one to the other.

If you are looking for some more tech info on Radios, try the DIY electronics section on rcgroups.com and let us know how you go - it Could be and interesting upgrade for the Sidetracked renta-bots, which current have an arcade microswitch style joystick and resistors hacked into a plug I put on a couple of Spektrums. Rough, but it works.

Barry just added a trim-pot to be able to dial back the renta-bots top speed.. the kids had worked out that doing full cross-arena charges made great crashes when they hit (and sometimes moved !) the walls. The Rentabots weigh about 30kg each !
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Post Tue Mar 23, 2010 11:09 pm 
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