Turtlebot 2i: A redesigned mobile platform and a robotic arm attached to it

A large community and documentation that includes everything you need to develop intelligent robots have made Turtlebots one of the most popular platforms for education and research.

Turtlebot 2i is a new Turtlebot version released by Interbotix, the same company that designed the HR-OS humanoid robots and the PhantomX hexapod.

The platform is open-source and developed in partnership with the Open Source Robotics Foundation, the same robotics foundation that supports the development, distribution, and adoption of ROS (Robot Operating System).

Turtlebot 2i brings a fresh air to older versions. The new platform was designed with a robotic arm for research and development of applications that require object manipulation. Thus, using a single platform, the Turtlebot 2i users have autonomous navigation and object manipulation in an accessible format.

The robotic arm is a Pinscher MK3 with 5 degrees of freedom. The arm has attached to the end a gripper able to manipulate small objects.

Interesting is the new processor as well as the 3D camera used by 2i. Intel launched Joule 570x to compete with Raspberry Pi 3. Joule 570x has integrated WiFi and the specifications are well above of the Pi 3 specs.

The 3D camera is also from Intel and is a RealSense 3D camera.

Just like the other Turtlebot variants, there is a list of tutorials and demonstrations to make easier the use of the Turtlebot 2i platform. Read more →

Tinker Board: A more powerful processor, double RAM, but 30% more expensive than Raspberry Pi 3

Raspberry Pi is the leader in everything that means building things with a computer capable of running one of the many Linux distributions. Asus tries to test the same target market as Pi 3 with a computer that seems to have higher performance than Raspberry Pi 3.

If you have doubts which one is better for you, below I made a list of the major differences between the two Linux boards.

If I made a list of the Tinker disadvantages, these would be:

  • No documentation – at this time the documentation page displays “0 files found”.
  • An active community.
  • The board runs TinkerOS, a Debian-based operating system. It’s a new operating system without support and development tools.
  • Supports for 32-bit software, Pi 3 supports for 64 bits
  • For a third more performance, the price is a third bigger than Pi 3. The price for Tinker is $59.99, and for a Pi 3 the price is $39.99.


  • A more powerful processor compared to Raspberry Pi 3 (1.8GHz vs. 1.2GHz).
  • More RAM memory (2GB of DDR3 memory vs 1GB of RAM for Pi 3).
  • Capable of running 4K video.

These are the major differences between Tinker and Raspberry Pi 3. Most of the other specifications are compared to Raspberry Pi 3. Both have 40 pins for inputs and outputs, the dimensions differ slightly in favor of the Asus board, both have WiFi connections, etc.

ASUS Tinker

ASUS Tinker

Tractobot: The Self-Driving Robot Tractor with ROS

What would be if farmers would become computer operators who just supervise the robots capable of working the land without the tractor’s operator intervention?

The robots capable of doing autonomous activities in agriculture already exist and are prepared to take on much of the responsibility of a tractor operator.

Tractobot is a project developed by Kyler Laird. Kyler started publishing information about the autonomous tractor as early as 2016, and the first thing he developed was an algorithm able to change the direction of the tractor.

The project has gone through many stages of development. One of the steps that led to the creation of an autonomous tractor was the use of the ROS framework.

Tractobot is already capable of going straight, turning, and manage the tools used in agricultural activities to work the land.

Besides the fact that the project itself consists of transforming normal tractors into robots, the total cost of conversion is quite small. Total costs are around $ 2,000, which is very cheap for such a project. Read more →

ROS for the Cozmo robot toy

One of the ROS users launched a ROS driver for the robot toy Anki Cozmo. For whom who doesn’t know, Cozmo is a robot toy programmed to express emotions, talk with users, or play games with the user.

OTL, because it’s about him, managed to use ROS to remotely control the robot, and even access the camera to detect objects. With the Cozmo SDK, the ROS driver can access sensors, battery status, or move the robot’s mobile parts. In conclusion, with the ROS driver, you have access to the Cozmo functionality.

If you already have a Cozmo and you are one of the ROS users, you can download the ROS driver to develop new toy functionality.
Read more →

How To Build a Remote Controlled Robot From Scratch

The nice part when I build things in robotics is that I can reuse the components from one project to another. Several boxes full of sensors, motor drivers, and a wide range of kits. What is missing here is just an idea and some time to put it together. So, I decided to build something new, something that I have never built before.

I chose to use a remote control with a receiver, a mobile platform, and one of the powerful motor drivers on the market, and at the same time, the best of my collection. The result is a remote controlled robot.

Such a project requires basic knowledge in electronics (something about voltage, ampere, how to use power wires, soldering, etc.). Moreover, this is a simple project that can be finished in a few hours.

Probably the best books to start building robots:

In this article, I described the components used, how to assemble the components, and finally, you’ll see how I tested the robot in my own kitchen.

The hardware components used in the project

  • The remote control is a Flysky FS-T6-RB6 2.4GHz FS

    I found the 2.4GHz remote control and the receiver at a good price on eBay, somewhere early this year.

  • The receiver with six radio channels
    it came bundled with the remote control.
  • Read more →

LOCORO: open-source, Raspberry Pi, ROS, and 3D printed parts

LOCORO is an open-source project available to roboticists enthusiastic to work with Raspberry Pi, ROS, and Linux. Here, I would be adding the parts that can be printed at home with a 3D printer. In conclusion, the final dimensions of the robot may differ depending on the requirements and needs.

Let’s go back to the interesting part, the smart components. What should be noted here is:

  • the robot brain Raspberry Pi 3 runs Raspbian. Pi 3 control sensors, motors, and almost everything must be controlled
  • ROS does what it does best. Allows the addition of capabilities such as mapping or computer vision
  • electronic component assembly is here
  • the instructions for hardware assembly is here
  • here are the steps for software
  • the web application can be found here
  • the program written in Python is here
  • and the parts that can be printed can be found here, including the wheels


Beaglebone Blue: a competitor for Raspberry Pi 3, but with features for robots

Beaglebone was and is a direct competitor for Raspberry Pi. With Pi 3, Raspberry introduced the WiFi and Bluetooth connections. With Blue, Beaglebone does the same.

In terms of processor and the RAM memory, Blue is a bit anemic. With the 1GHz processor and 500MB RAM, Blue will hardly cope to a framework for robots like ROS and an operating system such as Ubuntu Mate. Instead, Raspberry Pi 3 is doing quite well while running Ubuntu Mate and ROS.

If to build a robot with a Pi 3 board you need driver motors and sensors, with Blue things are slightly lighter. Connectors for sensors, a driver for DC motors, Analog to Digital converters, battery connector, or IMU and barometer sensors. All these things make the difference between Blue and Pi 3.

Blue comes with 4GB of flash memory. No matter what operating system and what software you choose to run on Blue, everything must fit in these 4GB of internal memory.

The price is $ 79.95. Only three distributors are now selling the Blue board. They are Element14, Mouser, and Arrow.

And the specifications:

  • Processor: Octavo Systems OSD3358 1GHz ARM® Cortex-A8
  • 512MB DDR3 RAM
  • 4GB 8-bit on-board flash storage
  • 2×32-bit 200-MHz programmable real-time units (PRUs)
  • On-board flash programmed with Linux distribution

Connectivity and sensors

  • Battery: 2-cell LiPo support with balancing, 6-16V charger input
  • Wireless: 802.11bgn, Bluetooth 4.1 and BLE
  • Motor control: 8 6V servo out, 4 DC motor out, 4 quad enc in
  • Sensors: 9 axis IMU, barometer
  • Connectivity: HighSpeed USB 2.0 client and host
  • Other easy connect interfaces: GPS, DSM2 radio, UARTs, SPI, I2C, analog, buttons, LEDs

Software Compatibility

  • Debian, ROS, Ardupilot
  • Graphical programming, Cloud9 IDE on Node.js
Beaglebone Blue

Beaglebone Blue

How To install ROS Kinetic on Raspberry Pi 3 (Ubuntu Mate)

The ROS framework is compatible with a short list of Linux distributions. Neither the hardware side is not better. There are just few hardware architectures compatible with ROS. Raspberry Pi is one of the development boards compatible in terms of hardware with ROS.

So, I thought to install ROS Kinetic on the Raspberry Pi 3 running Ubuntu Mate. But only a certain version of Ubuntu Mate is compatible with ROS and Raspberry Pi 3, it is about the Ubuntu MATE for Raspberry Pi 3. This is an OS version released last year and include support for the WiFi and Bluetooth modules integrated into the Pi 3.

Probably the best books to learn ROS

The OS version used by me on Raspberry Pi 3 is Ubuntu MATE 16.04.2.

The ROS version that I have installed is Kinetic Kame. Kinetic was released early last year and is compatible with Ubuntu Mate 16.04. I chose this version for two reasons:

  1. it will be officially supported for the next five years;
  2. it is the most complete version after Indigo;

The first step in installing ROS on Raspberry Pi 3 is called Mate. Ubuntu Mate. The operating system is simple to install. I followed the steps on the download page, and within minutes I managed to have a Pi 3 running Ubuntu Mate.
Read more →

Battery packs for drones, robots and electric vehicles (the same batteries used to power the Tesla cars)

The Dutch company CMIUTA Electric Company produces Lithium-ion battery packs for drones, robots, and electric vehicles. The same type of battery is used in the production of battery packs used to power the Tesla cars.

The Panasonic NCR18650’s have an energy/weight ratio by 70% higher compared to other batteries. For a drone, 70% more power at the same weight translates into a greater flight time by 70%. For a robot or an electric vehicle, the time increases substantially.

The company has three ranges of batteries as standard:

  • 3S with capacities between 3,5Ah and 31,5Ah
  • 4S with capacities between 7Ah and 52,5Ah
  • 6S with capacities between 14Ah and 42Ah

The specifications of a battery pack with a capacity of 46,4Ah:

  • Voltage: 25.2V (max.29.4V)
  • Capacity: 46.4Ah
  • Current: 160A continuous
  • Power: 1.3kWh
  • Battery pack dimensions: 28,5 x 16,5 x 7
  • Weight: 6200g
  • Configuration: 7S16P Genuine Panasonic NCR18650PF 10A/cell

Price list and variants:

Price list

You can order batteries using this page for orders.

Niryo One: The Robotic Arm Designed For ROS, Arduino and Raspberry Pi

The recipe for Niryo One is as follows: 3D printing, Raspberry Pi 3, Arduino Mega, RAMPS 1.4, ROS (Robot Operating System), Linux Ubuntu for Raspberry Pi, and lots of open-source code.

Let us study each feature:

3D printed:
All the components of the robotic arm that can be printed, have been printed with a 3D printer. The producers have used PLA as the printing material, but other materials may also be used.

Using the 3D printing technology to build most parts of the robot, the final price of such a project is lower when compared to traditional methods to build the same parts of a robot. Another benefit is that you can print components at home, or replace them if necessary.

Raspberry Pi 3: WiFi, Bluetooth, Ubuntu, ROS, Python.
Pi 3 connects the robot arm to the Internet or to a mobile device via WiFi and Bluetooth. Also, Pi runs important programs to control the Arduino board, and programs written in Python. In other words, Pi 3 running all programs that cannot run on the Arduino Mega.

Arduino Mega: the RAMPS 1.4 shield, control of DC motors, control of sensors.
That’s what Arduino does in this project. Read data from the sensors and control the DC motors. The data and commands are flowing through the RAMPS 1.4 shield.

RAMPS is a shield specifically designed to be compatible with the Arduino Mega board. This shield can control up to 5 stepper motors and few servo motors. It is interesting that such shields are used to build 3D printers. So, if you want to reuse some of the components of the robotic arm, you can build a 3D printer.

ROS: algorithms, applications
ROS running on the Raspberry Pi 3. The framework is designed to let the user add intelligence to the robotic arm. How? For example, it can add a camera and write an application for processing and analyze the images. In other words, the robotic arm can be programmed to recognize objects and sort them by color, size, etc. Moreover, ROS is open source and has a very active community.

Programs: open-source, GitHub
All the programs developed for Niryo will be available on GitHub. These programs can be downloaded and used to control the robotic arm.

Niryo One

Niryo One