Wednesday 27 October 2010

Fun Fun Fun with Robotics

This is yet another part of a new interest I developed. Its Robotics Again. I was building the walking mechanism for the alpha rex on Mindstorms.

It took me a while to build it manually, and the VPL program was larger than most other examples.
It was all worth the effort. Why? There are a lot of reasons for a software engineer to be happy with this.

- First, not a single line of code has been written!! All the instructions are using the VPL that comes with the mindstorms studio. Yes, it does compile and all that stuff but, hey I did not have to type in the code. I was dragging 'logic blocks' to get the job done.

- Second, with this a software engineer can imagine something and he has to imagine not only the logic but, also dream something that is mechanically feasible.

- Third, you have to build it mechanically!!. Finally, something tangible compared to the programs and processes.

The walking mechanism is here in this video

The touch sensors usage is very very impressive so is the technique used to walk. Stuff written on the package is true. 'Only three motors, 2 touch sensors, ultra sonic sensor, color sensor but a lot of possibilities'

Monday 25 October 2010

Visual Programming Language - Lego Nxt2.0 Robotics Kit

In 2008 I attended a career exhibition at Cardiff City Hall. There were a lot of companies who had put up a booth to guide to-be-grads in the room . One particular company Texas Instruments got my attention with their equipments (looked more circuit like) on the desk. I gave them a visit and the guy there eagerly explained to me how their equipment measures my temperature, heartbeat ... while I was holding a metal wire!! Then, we struck a techie cord and he started talking about other stuff like Visual Programming Language and then about Lego Mindstorms Robotics kit. After listening to all that, I thought that, I should get to know this VPL thing and Mindstorms Nxt.

I had a copy of MS Robotics Studio and played around with the studio. Missing was the sensors and motors i.e a robot kit.

Recently, I got a Nxt2.0 Kit and started doing some VPL programs and running it on the servo motors, sensors in the kit.

1) It is really nice to see and use the VPL studio that comes with the kit.
2) Even though there are only a limited number of sensors and motors, there is a lot of things that can be imagined and programmed.
3) Not to mention that, MSRS is compatible with this kit and we can code specifics in addition to the VPL capabilities.

When you read a books on Robotics, you see terms like actuators, sensors, services, concurrent execution etc and it was upto imagination to piece them together. But, with a kit like this it makes understanding things a lot more easier.

I tried out a few of the vehicles and really enjoyed building and programming with VPL. One of the sensors I really like is the Ultrasonic sensor that can be used to measure distance. The shooter robot was really interesting. The technique to shoot the colored balls is really impressive. (old pool game idea). My bot was ready and I gave it a try.

The video is here --->

It senses when some thing comes closer than one foot and fires. Simple. The villain was the only thing I can get my hands on before the batteries ran dry, a rolled up carpet.

Next would be Finishing the alpha rex humanoid and then moving to using custom code with this.

And yes, there are a lot of other robots and kits you can get your hands on these days. But, this is definitely a good place to start.