Online stores that sell Raspberry Pi Zero W

If you want to be among the first who play with the new board from Raspberry Pi, below are the online stores from where you can order a Raspberry Pi Zero W.

The letter W stands for Wireless. The first small plate from Raspberry Pi is called Zero and doesn’t have integrated WiFi or Bluetooth. The difference between Zero and Zero W is the Wireless and Bluetooth modules that are integrated into the board.

The price remains very attractive. Most online stores have a price that starts at $10. At that price, you have to add the accessories, so that the final price may be several times higher.

Fathom: artificial intelligence at the USB port

Fathom is a USB device with a Myriad 2 processor capable of running computer vision algorithms in real-time. This little device has the potential to change the applying mode of artificial intelligence in robotics.

Let suppose that you want to build a robot capable of recognizing objects and sort them according to the features, or search a certain toy somewhere in the house, or all of these together. I speak from experience here. It is damn hard to do all of these without an algorithm to recognize objects in real time, and of course, a lot of late nights of work.

First of all, for Computer Vision (CV) applications you need a powerful computer. From the hardware side, the Raspberry Pi 3 board is widely used in such applications. From the software point of view, you need a library of video/image processing such as OpenCV, in some cases a cloud account, and certainly a ton of program lines.

Google made this work a little easier and developing an application called TensorFlow. But even so, it is still hard to make a robot recognize or distinguish objects based on computer vision algorithms.

Fathom by Movidius

Fathom by Movidius

Let get back to our intelligent device and discover what is able to do.

Fathom is a USB gadget that fits into any device with USB ports. A list of such devices is given even to the device’s manufacturer. The list includes hobby platforms such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino, the GoPro cameras, and of course any computer. Immediately after installation, any of the above devices are capable of using the power of the Myriad 2 processor and neural networks.

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DJI M200: 2 video cameras with 2 gimbals, IP43 protection and over 30 minutes of flight time

DJI is one of the giants in the drone industry that certainly invest a lot of money to develop innovative products in the field. With the new M200 series, the Chinese company pushed the DJI drones from hobby to the industrial area. This step is normal given that the UAV drones market size for hobby was overestimated. The result is that some of the top companies facing financial problems or include the exit strategy in the business plan.

There are a few features of the DJI M200 that caught my attention including:

  • the target: the DJI target with the M200 series is the industrial area, calamities, or any other missions where is necessary to capture images in challenging flight conditions;
  • the drone is available in a choice of three versions: M200 (has a single gimbal), M210 (two gimbals), and M210, which in addition to the two gimbals, incorporates two RTK modules (Real Time Kinematics) able to provides millimeter accuracy in positioning;
  • the capacity: the drone has a payload capacity of 2 kilograms;
  • the flight time: if the payload is not attached, the drone can stay in the air for up to 38 minutes – according to the manufacturer (we will see in the reviews if the time estimation is right or not). But fully loaded, the drone can stay in the air for maximum 13 minutes;
  • transmitting distance: an impressive distance of 7 kilometers (free of interference);
  • protection from solid objects: either M200 models have an IP43 level protection. IP stands for Ingress Protection, 4 means protection against solid objects over 1 mm and 3 is the protection from wind, rain, snow, etc;
DJI 200

DJI 200

The drone can be controlled through a mobile device via the DJI Pilot application. From the application, you can schedule the drone to track a particular subject, to autonomously flight to a particular point, and automatically follow a subject using image recognition algorithms. This last feature is called Active Track and does not use the GPS coordinates.

As I said above, the drones have a flying time of more than 30 minutes without payload attached, or over 10 minutes fully loaded. Considering that only the additional weight can be up to two kilograms, the four powerful DC motors have a high appetite to consume the two batteries.

The standard batteries are LiPo with a capacity of 4280 mAh and 22,8V. You can additionally purchase bigger batteries with a capacity of 7660 mAh.

For now, the company only made a presentation of the M200 series during to the Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona. The price is not disclosed, but you can make a preorder.

The folks at Engadget were able to look in details at the drone for a review:

Titan XIII borrows the walking style of robots with four legs (only makes it more efficient for an insect)

A four-legged mammal robot is moving forward by moving his legs in sync of twos. Always the robot platform will support the other two legs remaining in contact with the ground. This method is a much more effective than if a robot would move one leg at a time.

The solution to moving synchronously two legs once was not adopted to the insect robots with four legs. The reason is self-evident. If the two legs out of four are in the air to make the next move, the other two legs can not keep the platform in balance. Until now, the solution for insect robots with four legs was to move one leg at a time in the direction of travel.

Japanese researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have created an insect robot with four legs capable of moving two legs at the same time. The robot moves as fast as the robots inspired by mammals. The researchers have solved the problem of stability and managed to swing the weight of the robot legs with the diagonal legs that are in contact with the ground.

The robots inspired by insects are very good at walking over rough terrain. Until now, the robots inspired by mammals were approached by most researchers in the field thanks to high efficiency (can move two legs at the same time).

The robots with four legs are made to carry cargo on less accessible land for machines. From Spot and to WildCat, all researchers were inspired by mammals.

The insect robots have a lower center of gravity and increased stability, which makes them more suited to carrying loads on different types of terrain.

The Titan XIII robot can now replace any mammal robot. It has three degrees of freedom on each leg. Each leg is in part driven by a motor through artificial tendons which make the insect move.

Here are more details and specifications:

Titan XIII Specifications

Titan XIII Specifications

The little insect Titan XIII is remotely controlled via WiFi and a software program. Below you can watch a demonstration of the robot.

Super Guzzilla

In the last days, I’ve searched for new projects of gigantic robots. I really want one instead of a pet.

While I’ve looked at the giants in the field of robotics, I remembered the Guzzilla project. Guzilla was announced some time ago by the Japanese company Taguchi Industrial specialized in heavy machines. After nearly a year after launch and after a few exhibitions, nobody knows anything about the project.

Such a robot is useful in demolitions, natural disasters, and why not, in the arena to fight with other giants such MegaBots.

The robot is equipped with two arms that ends with an industrial shredder, on the one hand, and on the other hand an industrial cutter. It has a width of 7 meters, 3.2 meters width and a height of 3.5 meters. At all these features is added the impressive weight of 15 tons.

If you want to remember what I’m talking about above:

How To Install ros-indigo-desktop-full on Linux Ubuntu

One month ago, I wrote a post with all the reasons that should make you use ROS to design and build robots. In this tutorial, I will show you the end-to-end process to have a fresh ROS environment on a Linux Ubuntu machine.

I know you can read this guide and get all the information to install ROS Indigo on a Linux machine without any problem. But this guide may be incomplete for someone who wants to install ROS on a virtual machine and setting up the creation of an ROS workspace.

Probably the best books to learn ROS

The tutorial has four parts:

  1. In the first part, I’ll show you how to install and setup Linux Ubuntu under Oracle VM VirtualBox. This part is very useful if you’re using a Windows PC or Mac OS. If you already use a Linux Ubuntu machine, then you can jump directly to the second part of the tutorial.
  2. In the second part of the tutorial, I’ll show you how to install ros-indigo-desktop-full on Linux Ubuntu.
  3. In the third part, you’ll see how to install external packages needed to start working with ROS.
  4. In the last part, I’ll show you how to check your ROS environment.

Read more →

Why and How To Use Switching Voltage Regulators To Maintain a Constant Voltage Level

The sensor inputs are as important as the outputs. So, keeping the input voltage of the sensor at a constant level with a step-up/step-down voltage regulator is mandatory to have accurate measurements.

In another tutorial, I have shown you how to make accurate ADC readings with Arduino. In this post, I continue the series of articles about how to make accurate readings with sensors. Using a switching voltage regulator to keep a constant voltage level at the input of sensors is important for both digital and analog sensors.

Probably the best books to start building robots:

A sensor is designed to return accurate measurements at a certain value of the voltage. Most of the sensors used in robotics are in the range of 3.3V and 5V. Of course, some sensors are exceptions. For example, the LIDAR-Lite v3 is designed to work with a power supply between 4.75 and 6V maximum.

For example, if the sensor requires a 5V constant power supply, it will return the most accurate readings at this value. So, we need to make all we can do to have a constant voltage at the input of the sensor. The power supply voltage value is indicated in the datasheet of every sensor.

HC-SR04 and a step-up/step-down voltage regulators

A voltage regulator is designed to provide a fixed voltage level regardless of its input.

There are several types of voltage regulators, but in this article, I will focus on the switching regulators.
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How To Make Accurate ADC Readings with Arduino

Even one failure of a sensor can result in a disaster for your robot. In this post, I explored the method to make accurate ADC readings with Arduino to eliminate the failures of analog sensors used in robotics applications.

This method is applied to analog sensors such as temperature, light, etc. For accurate readings, you need to take into account the actual value of the power supply voltage.

Probably the best books to start building robots:

Of course, I need a development board to test this method. Roboticists, electronicists, hobbyists, hackers, artists seem to have at least one point in common. It is called Arduino. So, to test the method, I used an Arduino UNO board. The same board that I used to build this self-driving robot.

How To Make Accurate ADC Readings with Arduino

How To Make Accurate ADC Readings with Arduino

Accurate ADC readings

Arduino UNO can be powered from a USB port, one or more batteries and from an AC-to-DC adapter. So far everything is simple. Very simple.

But, when you got the Arduino plugged into one of its compatible power supply sources, you supposedly have a constant voltage to feed the Arduino board. Wrong!

The voltage from the USB ports and batteries fluctuates. The voltage output from an AC-to-DC adapter is more stable. For example, the USB port sometimes outputs a voltage of 5.12V and sometimes 5.14V. Read more →

15+ Reasons To Use The Robot Operating System (ROS)

You have complete freedom to decide what components you use to assemble a robot. If choosing the ingredients of a robot looks more like a playground, the hard part comes when, in one way or another, all these elements have to communicate. But just making them communicate is not enough to make your robot move and make something useful. You have to control all the elements. You need a conductor to put the bits in the right place and hold the rhythm together. You need ROS.

ROS Robots

In this post, I did a collection of more than 15 reasons why to use ROS. Below, I have explored from compatible tools to more insights such as its flexibility in controlling things.

Probably the best books to learn ROS

  1. The robots love Linux. ROS as well.
  2. Most of the robots in the world (including here the robots built at home by hobbyists) are running Linux. So, this is the line where the ROS’s engineers focused their efforts.

    ROS is not actually an operating system. Its name – Robot Operating System – creates confusion and misleading the user. But strictly speaking, it is a collection of software libraries and tools used by the roboticists to develop applications.

    And because is not an operating system, ROS is running on a true operating system. ROS uses the OS’s processes management system, user interface, file system and programming utilities. The most used operating system is Linux, followed by Mac OS X and somewhat recently there are some steps forward to make it Windows compatible. Read more →

Bluetooth Controlled Robot Using Arduino and Android

When a group of engineers at Ericsson invented in 1994 the Bluetooth technology, probably no one could not have imagined the impact on connecting people and things. They don’t imagine that makes happy millions of makers. They don’t even know how happy the roboticists are. Anyone can use the technology to build a robot controlled at a touch of a button while nobody worries about wires.

Like many of you, I want to prototype things. Robots that make me happy. One of them is a remote controlled tank robot.

Let’s start to learn how to use the Bluetooth technology to control the speed and direction of a tank robot platform at a touch of a button.

Probably the best four books about Arduino and Bluetooth connections:

First, I choose the hardware

TS – 50 Mini Bluetooth Tank Robot Smart Car Kit + Arduino UNO + HC-06 Bluetooth Module

The key part of this project is the Bluetooth module. Since I use an Arduino UNO, I need a Bluetooth module Arduino compatible. A few months ago, I wrote an article about the Bluetooth modules Arduino compatible with a range of several meters.

Since I have to be in a proximity area to control the robot, a Bluetooth module with a range of 5 meters is enough. I don’t have large rooms in my apartment, so any of these wireless modules can reach this range.

For this project, I use an HC-06 Bluetooth module. This is a slave module that works perfectly with Arduino UNO.

Next, I have to focus on the mobile platform.
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