Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Plan

The robot will have the following:
  • An off-road capable R/C chassis in 1/10 scale (good brand names I know: Tamiya and Traxxas)
  • A microcontroller to interface with the chassis electronics and perhaps some of the simpler onboard sensors. (I have a small amount of experience with the Arduino board which makes it my first choice.)
  • An onboard computer for the AI and Vision processing. Right now the leading candidate is the Asus eee PC, but the HP 2133 Mini-Note and various Mini-ITX computers are all in the running. More on this debate later.
  • Camera(s) for vision. Stereo would be great, but that requires two cameras rigidly fixed to one another. I also have to consider the limitations of the computer's USB or Firewire Bus and processor to handle that much incoming camera data at once.
  • Other sensors. Candidates are Ultrasonic Rangefinders, Bump sensors, and Infrared Rangefinders.
  • Power will be supplied by the chassis battery and a additional battery for the computer. Laptops are the most convenient in that regard.
The main task I want the robot to perform initially is roaming with obstacle avoidance, and mapping. Basically the robot should accumulate a map of its surroundings by wandering around and observing them, while keeping track of its own position relative to previously-viewed landmarks. Formally, this is called Simultaneous Localisation And Mapping, or SLAM. Once that's working, who knows what I'll program it to do.

For a software structure the plan is to use Player/Stage with Gazebo, which is an open-source framework for developing robots.

Big plans. We'll see where they go.

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