Review of Mini Tank Robot for Arduino

Disclaimer: This review consists of my own opinion. Gearbest sent me the Keyestudio TS – 50 Mini Bluetooth Tank Robot Smart Car Kit for this review, but otherwise I am receiving no compensation for this write-up.

An Arduino compatible robot tank is not hard to build. You can find tons of projects that show you how to build one at home from scratch. But, what if you want just to play with one? And less to cut wires, cut plywood, build tracks and so on. Well, a mini robot tank kit is the perfect solution. You just assemble the components and write the code. Then, just play, that’s all!

This Mini Tank Robot for Arduino is simple and doesn’t require degrees in electronics and programming to work with it. The kit includes sensors, electronics, batteries, the chassis and accessories that put together the components and parts. Currently, the price of the kit is $66 on GearBest (the kit has a discount of 46%).

I like to build autonomous and less remote controlled robots. This kit can handle both modes: autonomous and wireless control. The HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor can detect the obstacles while the tracks change the direction. The Bluetooth module is useful to control the robot with a smartphone or a tablet.

Because I assembled and tested the robot tank, below you can read my own opinion about it. For first, let’s starts with what I like and I don’t like at this mobile platform.

To not forget: I managed to fry the Arduino UNO clone at the second try. I just fried the board as I left the battery connected when installing the USB cable. Luckily, I replace it with an Arduino UNO, and the robot went perfectly.

Read more →

5 Cheap Methods For Indoor Robot Localization: BLE Beacon, AprilTags, WiFi SubPos, NFC and RFID

To find a cheap method to locate a mobile robot accurately in a room is currently an enormous challenge. We all learn that the cheapest, simplest and most useful solution for navigation and localization is the GPS system. But when you use a GPS sensor inside a house or building, a wide variety of barriers and interference make it difficult for GPS devices to work particularly well indoors. Given this, we have to forget the GPS navigation system for indoor use and try other methods.

The motors encoder or stepper motors are out of this topic. It doesn’t work for me since my robot wheels can slip at high speeds, while for the stepper motors, I need to know the starting position. A LiDAR or a Hagisonic StarGazer Robot Localization System is also out of this topic due to high prices. These types of sensors give accuracy in measurement, but with high costs. So, I have to find a cheap, efficient and accurate way to locate my robot precisely within an area.

With an exuberant curiosity, I did some research, and I found five methods that work in rooms and large indoor spaces. All the methods explored in this article can localize a robot that starts from a random point and moves towards a goal.

These are the methods:

  1. BLE Beacon
  2. AprilTags
  3. WiFi SubPos
  4. NFC (Near Field Communication)
  5. RFID (Radio-Frequency IDentification)

1. BLE Beacons

XY Find It XY2 Second Generation Bluetooth Item Finder for iOS and Android

XY Find It XY2 Second Generation Bluetooth Item Finder for iOS and Android

BLE Beacons are small devices available in a wide range of shapes to be mounted on walls, tables, etc. These devices are specially designed for indoor locations. A robot can detect the BLE beacon signal and calculate its position in the range of more than two beacons and estimate the location. The beacons can run on a single battery charge for years, and this is one of its advantages in front of other localization systems.

Using BLE beacons to calculate the indoor position should be easier, at least in theory. The robot receives tiny and static pieces of data within short distances. First of all, the Bluetooth receiver has to identify the beacon. The identification consists of a long and unique string called UUID plus two numeric values from 0-99999 for the beacon’s major and minor number combinations. Then is the data used to calculate the location.

The data package is sent at an interval of n milliseconds. As an example, an interval value can be 350ms. Luckily, this interval can be adjusted for all the beacons. If you choose a shorter interval than the default one, the beacon can be discovered faster, but the battery life will be shortened. Read more →

8+ Pieces To Make your Robot More Efficient

Your robot probably doesn’t meet your expectations concerning performance and optimization. Even if you build robots with limited budgets, sometimes you have to strive to reach a new level of efficiency and optimization.

So, you should probably start from this article to find out the king of brains for autonomous vehicles, improved Raspberry Pi motor controllers, the best infrared Time-of-Flight sensor, a development board for autonomous robots and smart video cameras and accessory.

1. ERLE BRAIN

ERLE BRAIN 2

ERLE BRAIN 2

Why Erle Brain? Because it’s a Linux-based embedded computer that integrates sensors and supports ROS (Robot Operating System). So you can build autonomous vehicles capable of cruising city streets or lands without the aid of human control.

You have to choose from a wide range of options that includes an integrated camera, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS and more. Read more →

Servocity Announces The Prowler Robot Kit

Servocity announces the new Prowler robot kit with off-road tires and ABS construction frame.

The platform is large enough to host electronics and other components for an autonomous or a remote controlled robot.

Each wheel is driven by a 12V DC motor with a rated load of 4.5 kgf-cm (62.5 oz-in).

The 4WD robot platform is priced at about $219.99.

The Prowler Robot Kit

The Prowler Robot Kit

Included parts

  • (4) 313 RPM Planetary Gearmotor
  • (4) Black Revolver Wheels
  • (4) Leopard Off-Road Robot Tires
  • (4) 12mm Hex Wheel Adaptor D
  • (4) Aluminum Motor Mount E
  • (2) 90 Degree Quad Hub Mount
  • (25) .4375”L x 6-32 Socket Head Screws
  • (2) ABS Plates

Read more →

Building Robots: Professionals vs Amateurs

The amateur buys wheels, motors, controllers, a platform kit, etc. without having an idea of the final robot and how it should look. The professional avoids buying anything until they have a detailed plan of how it looks and what should do the robot.

The amateur engages questions on robotics communities without searching for solutions. The professional gets back to work.

The amateur disregards optimization. The professional focuses on eliminating unnecessary things.

The amateur tries to build everything at once. The professional focuses on one task at a time.

The amateur build robots occasionally. The professional works almost every day.

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Yes, I know. We all start as amateurs, and even after some time, the best of us give into the temptations of the amateur.

Build a Self-Driving Robot Car with a Raspberry Pi 3 model B, Camera, GPS and the Sense-HAT Board

We already know the Raspberry Pi is one of the primaries development boards for robotics, but the DIYer from custom-build-robots.com took it another step and built a self-driving robot car.

The DIYer took a 4WD robot kit, stuffed some electronics, mounted the Raspberry Pi, a Raspberry Pi camera, the Sense-HAT board and a GPS module, then write Python code for the robot. The result is an autonomous robot car able to drive from one-way point to the next one.

Head over to custom-build-robots.com website for the full description of the project.

Raspberry Pi self-driving robot-car

What Programming Language Do You Use with Arduino for Robotics Projects: the Arduino language, C or C++?

This should be an interesting question for anyone who’s using the Arduino board and try to optimize the software side for current and future projects. I found it on Reddit in one and another form, and I’ll present the most important ideas here in a concise and easy to understand way.

From C code to Arduino board with avr-gcc (image source)

From C code to Arduino board with avr-gcc (image source)

Arduino language advantages

  • The Arduino libraries make things easier to operate the functions of the Arduino boards
  • The Arduino language adds extra features designed for Arduino boards
  • Arduino IDE and Arduino programming language have the goal to simplify programming for beginners

C/C++ advantages

  • One of the greatest advantage using C/C++ is that you can have a toolkit of libraries to interface with hardware, networking, front-end GUIs, etc.
  • With C or C++ you can directly access the registers on the microcontroller and write code that is not in the Arduino code
  • Since the Arduino libraries are written in C/C++, you can interface with them directly
  • C/C++ let you manage limited resources better

Please let me know in the comment section your opinion regarding the programming language you use with Arduino.

640 and Escape: Raspberry Pi Zero Motor Controllers for 6 Independent Motors

640 and Escape are two motor controllers compatible with Raspberry Pi Zero. Both controllers are crowdfunded on Kickstarter and crossed the goal of £4,000 after a few days of the campaign.

Raspberry Pi Zero is one of the development boards that makes anyone think of robotics, automation, art,… at anything controlled by a cheap and small Linux single-board computer. So, why we need 640 and Escape?

640 and Escape

640 and Escape

You need one or more motor controllers to control two, four, six, seven, eight, etc., DC motors, stepper motors or servo motors. You can see everywhere motor controllers able to control two or four DC motors, one or more stepper motors, or several servo motors. The idea is simple: if you want to control more DC motors, you need multiple boards stacked on top of the Raspberry Pi Zero.

Optimization is the keyword for 640 and Escape. With the same board able to control 6 DC motors are increasing the possibilities and options to build a wide range of mobile robots.

The engineers that design the boards have also developed Python and C++ libraries. These are available on GitHub repositories together with a few tutorials and examples.
Read more →

Google’s Laws of Robotics

Google plays hard to get a big piece of cake from the whole robotics industry with SCHAFT, Redwood Robotics, Meka Robotics, Holomni, Bot & Dolly and Boston Dynamics. With such impressive portfolio of robotics companies, Google has the influence and power to create trends and design technologies for the robotics world. Even better, they have created its laws of robotics.

So, for the moment forget the Isaac Asimov’s laws of robotics and take a moment to read the Google’s laws of robotics. Fastcodesign present them in a concise and easy to understand way.

  1. Robots should not make things worse;
  2. Robots shouldn’t cheat;
  3. Robots should look to humans as mentors;
  4. Robots should only play where it’s safe;
  5. Robots should know they’re stupid;

What Part of The Mindstorms Would You Change/Upgrade If LEGO Build a New Kit?

The LEGO Mindstorms kit ($350 on Amazon) is built to inspire and make you smile from ear to ear for a long time. But we grow up and need to use more and advanced technologies. For example, a development board like Raspberry Pi has been released with a built-in WiFi module. With this new version, it entered in the Internet of Things world as it is, a WiFi compatible single board computer. No accessories and other stuff.

LEGO Arctic Racer Concept

LEGO Arctic Racer Concept (source)

So, if tomorrow LEGO will build a new Mindstorms kit, I want to:

  • be connected to the Internet in minutes without using a USB WiFi dongle that is supported by the firmware. I want to control my robot from the Internet;
  • easily connect my robot to an IoT platform for real-time status of the sensors;
  • prototype outdoor robots (big wheels, large DC motors, etc.);

If a LEGO engineer asks you today what part of the LEGO Mindstorms would you change/upgrade if the company build a new kit, what would be your answer? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.