Just Ordered: Arduino Starter Kit from SparkFun

I have been reading through the book Programming Interactivity and am finally ready to get started with some projects. I will be starting with an Arduino Starter Kit from SparkFun.com

This should be a good solid entry into computer based robotics. Once I have tackled some of the basics with Arduino, I look forward to branching out and covering some other topics.

One of my initial goals is to connect to the internet from my projects so that I can log data to a SQL database and control the devices from a web application. Although I won’t be able to do that yet with the starter kit, there are some add ons that should allow me to extend the starter kit as needed.

Now to wait for the kit to get here.

More Tutorials and Rule Based Programming

I found another source for tutorials this week. Steve Norris offers tutorials of his projects on his website at NorrisLabs.com (look down the right side for navigation)

His tutorials look to be a little more advanced, but are cool to investigate even if you don’t plan on doing them. I discovered Steve’s work through an article from Popular Mechanics, 5 Homemade Robots That Offer Hope for DIY Geeks (With Video)

What interests me the most about his work is how he programmed rules into one of his robots.  His rules aren’t as complex as Asimov’s but create interesting results.  One such result Steve achieved was a graceful three point turn which was established by programming the robot to follow 3 rules:

  1. Always look at what it’s tracking
  2. Always move toward what it’s tracking
  3. If it gets too close to what it’s moving toward, back away.

As you can see none of those rules has anything to do with 3 point turns yet they have sophisticated consequences.

I have witnesses rule based programming create significantly more sophisticated results then intended in other application as well and am interested in investigating this further.  There are a few components that are necessary for rule based programming.  First of you have to have sensory input.  Second, you must have a programed response to that incoming data.

Another example of this is is the following tutorial on how to Build a (simple) balancing robot.  The robot achieves balance by applying a rule, which is to maintain the distance between the ground and a sensor mounted on the bottom of the robot. If the distance is too close the robot makes a corrective movement.  If the distance is too far, once again a corrective motion is made and the robot holds itself up.

If anyone knows other examples of rule based programming and related tutorials, please comment them to this post.

Tutorials and Kits

A natural development into my research concerning robotics is that I am finding several aspects of the industry that are lacking.  This is purely due to the industry being relatively young in terms of availability and access.

One trend that I really appreciate that really helps remove those barriers to entry are all of the individuals and companies who publish and blog about their work and offer tutorials.

Way back when I first started to program, I was forced to teach myself how to do everything.  I quickly discovered that tutorials where going to be my best bet for learning as the tutorials had a tendency to offer complete code.  That is, they where functional and did what they claimed most of the time.  Now that I professionally develop medical applications, I still find myself going back time and time again to the same type of resources.

A close friend of mine and I were having a conversation earlier. We were talking about the various projects we were taking on and the decision was made to try our hand at putting together a few tutorials. Of course projects in robotics differ from code as all the the parts aren’t necessarily available.   Finding the right combination of motors and controllers isn’t always straight forward.  To make our tutorials more effective for those interested in learning from them, we intend to package all of the parts together and offer kits to go along with the tutorials.

I have some fun projects in mind, so this experiment should be interesting. In the mean time, remember to take a look at the resources section as I am starting to gather a nice collection of vendors and tutorials from around the web.

Deciding Where to Get Started

One of the nice aspects about using the Microsoft .NET framework is that I have tons of tested tools to choose from when I put together web applications (that is what I do for a living). That being said, I am constantly trying to figure out what systems are in place within the world of robotics.

So far I have run accross several different platforms, Lego MindStorms, iRobot, Microsoft, as well as a handfull of smaller platforms.  I have also noticed that there are even more types of firmware which leaves me a little overwhelmed when choosing where to get started.

I will probably purchase my first robotics kit sometime in the next month.  I am hoping to find a few more online stores to choose from and will probably email the guys over at Trossen Robotics for their opinions as to where and how to get started.

In the mean time, if anyone has suggestions or is curious about where to find parts and supplies, I am growing my list on my Robotics Resources page.

Endurance Robotics

http://www.endurance-robotics.com/

…this is very cool.  I found the site through the Trossen Robotics Blog post on a natural robotic arm controller and am thuroughly impressed!

Endurance Robotics looks to be a great source of parts and kits and also has a software and PC Interface components.  Needless to say I will be investigating them further.

Tutorials :: Getting Started in PC Based Robotics

I happened on some tutorials today and decided that they were important enough to warrant their own page!

I have officially started the Tutorials page.  I will be putting useful tutorials here and intend to work through as much of what I post as I can. I intend to mark the tutorials that I have had a chance to work through and to add any additional notes.  I may even create some of my own once I get the parts and some experience with them.

The following two tutorials use C# to control and interact with sockets and servos. The tutorials are written by Adrenalynn from the TRC and show some basics. I discovered these tutorials from the Trossen Robotics Blog on Getting Started in PC Based Robotics; a topic I am very interested in.

RFID Tags Have Arrived.

The RFID tags arrived today.  The guys over at Metal Craft sent me several sample packs of their RFID tags. I am thoroughly impressed with the quality.  I will be writing a longer article soon as I am investigating all of the technologies they incorporate into their tag construction as well as the readers they reference in the technical documentation.

Blog & Parts :: http://www.trossenrobotics.com/

http://www.trossenrobotics.com/

This shop has multiple facets that interest me.  A blog with regular robotic contests. A store containing robot kits, all the individual parts a robot developer might need and even RFID tags and readers.

Needless to say I will be investigating them further and they will be added to my resources page.

Blog :: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics [http://smart-machines.blogspot.com/]

This blog lists tons of posts on different robots.  I am looking forward to reading into their archives.  As I look through their posts, I am finding myself interested in flying microbots as well as swarm bots that interact with each other.

Several of the microbot posts mention a flying time of approximately 3 minutes.   I experienced the same issue with a tiny remote control helicopter I bought awhile back.  I wonder if it is possible to combine the power transfer mechanism used with RFID tags to remotely power and progressively recharge during flight…

Today I scored some free RFID tags

Last week I emailed an RFID tag vendor hoping that I could score some sample packs of their tags to work with.  My goal is to develop a few test projects so that I have working knowledge with the technology that I can later incorporate into larger projects or business models.

The company is sending me several sample packs with several different kinds of tags.  I will post more on this when I get them.

I know need to find one or more readers and get information on how to integrate this with .NET

I am super siked!