Saturday, April 22, 2006

The plan...

Sometime in the future (Q1 2007), after my next book is published, I plan on taking my background in C/C++ programming, Linux embedded software development, AI/Neural networks, and TCP/IP networking and combine it all as I explore the world of robotics.

To date, I have purchased two VEX robotics kits (they are half price at radio shack, and I am interested in swarming -- so I'll eventually want at least two bots), a development kit, and assorted accessories. I also have enquiries out to a vendor of ARM-based single board computers (one that supports Linux).

Generally speaking, my plan is to mate a VEX system with a Linux-based SBC (somehow). I understand that people have been able to interface a Palm-based PDA with their VEX, so it must be possible for me to do the same with a more capable Linux system. I want the bots (and perhaps a desktop controller) to communicate over 802.11, I want the host to support a LAMP stack (particularly apache/PHP so I can log on to the thing over the net, control it, and check on its status). I also have a huge interest in machine vision, so I'll want to mount a couple of cameras and work on software such that most of the decisions made by the bots are based on visual cues.

The VEX has a microcontroller that looks to be plenty powerful to support reading sensors and controlling actuators. But not nearly enough to do what I described in the paragraph above. I'm thinking the best thing to do is devise some interface (serial??) between the VEX and the SBC, and come up with some language that can be used by the VEX to send the SBC status, and the SBC to send commands to the VEX. If I do it right, the whole thing should be portable to other robotic platforms (e.g., Lego mindstorms).


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