White Box Robotics Pre-order

snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:


Or getting the beer. Still working on that one.
-- Gordon
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I actually have a ton of old polaroid ultrasonic ranging systems that are 20 years old. They have the old gold-foil transducers.
I want something that is obtainable by others.

I was thinking of using a keyboard, but I have three switches available through a mouse that I may want to use. That way, they would go directly to the motor control software.

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mlw wrote:

The Polaroid ranging systems are easily obtainable by others, either in kit form, pre-built, or scavenged from old cameras still widely available through eBay (though it's been a while since I looked) and as the previous poster mentioned, flea markets and swap meets. In the case of the latter, there is plenty of information on the web on hacking these old camera boards and transducers for use in robotics. Zagros, Acroname and many others sell the former as either kits or assembled units.
Devantach also makes a number of models of inexpensive rangers. The I2C-enabled versions are more expensive than the "time the pulse yourself" versions, but could probably be interfaced to your linux box via the SMBus, and will compute the TOF on your behalf. Most of the Devantech models have a wider effective FOV than the Polaroid units, a lower minimum range and a lower maximum range. This makes them maybe a little less well-suited to distance mapping, but great for obstacle detection and close-in mapping. They also tend to be easier on the power supply than the Polaroid rangers. I generally prefer these.
-- (Replies: cleanse my address of the Mark of the Beast!)
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It is the kind of thing you see in "sharper image" catalog. They will be popular among people with a bunch of money, until one of us comes out with something affordable that everyone can buy.
Rich
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I don't see that. Robosapiaen is a toy the performs on demand, roomba is a carpet cleaner. What is whitebox going to do?

While price is very important, utility is very important.
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mlw wrote:

Probably as much as your robot. Your platform doesn't specify anything beyond what the Whitebox robots will have off the shelf -- a PC, an OS, some path-planning software, a camera. How did yours suddenly become so capable? (The Whitebox machines will use the ER vision software, which is actually pretty good.)
While we're on the subject, Roomba is a poor carpet cleaner. It picks up little specks of stuff, but that's about it. People buy these so they can say a robot is cleaning their house. Then, when no one's looking, they get out a real vacuum.
Don't get me wrong, I welcome the Roomba, but its utility as a vacuum cleaner is questionable. It inspires more than it cleans. I have nothing against products that inspire.
-- Gordon
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Gordon McComb wrote:

Yes, but that isn't the issue is it? I haven't decided to sell my system yet. Regardless, $1200 and $1700 are substantial investments.

yup
I won't debate the usefullness of the roomba because I feel it is dubious at best, but they have a marketing focus.

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mlw wrote:

Irrelevent. You asked what the Whitebox is going to do. "Your" system, at $500 just for parts, is equally substantial if it has the same limited function. Price is relative to value. A lot of labor has to go into building on of "your" robots, and labor has a value.
You know, $1,200 isn't all that much when the machine is first and foremost a PC, especially a Windows PC, which has wide acceptance as a desktop appliance. It's not much more than a modded PC, and guaranteed to be different than what anyone else has in their dorm rooms.
Has it occurred to you that you might work with this guy to offer a Linux alternative? The hardware is quite similar, down to the VIA EPIA board. You'll have to support steppers, though. They'll be in your neck of the woods May 10-12 at Robobusiness, along with Evolution Robotics, and other leaders and shakers. You could tell them how wrong they are to use Windows.
-- Gordon
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Gordon McComb wrote:

No, price is a very important part of most market plans.

Exactly.
"my" robot is intended for hobbiests, and is nothing more than a "HOWTO." Whitebox is a "product" that really doesn't do anything.

Yes and no, a "modded" PC is typically a gaming PC, and high performance video cards that suck up power, lots of ram, and very fast CPUs, so I bet that it isn't even a very good modded PC.

Only as a "what if" scenario.

The tone of this paragraph is humorous, "tell them how wrong they are to use Windows." There are many ways to look at this statement. Think what you will.
Besides, I was interesed in the "robobusiness" thing until I realized it was about "robotics business" and not "robotics." It is the object of business not to do anything original.
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mlw wrote:

You're right. Building a rectangular base with two gear motors from a ride-on toy, and strapping a motherboard on it, has never been done before.
-- Gordon
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Gordon McComb wrote:

Yes, mechanically, it is very simple, but that isn't the issue, at least not to me.
Where I think I am being, if not original, at least different, and I'm still thinking about the differentiation points, is the idea that it *is* just a PC.
I've spent a good amount of time (years) implementing and studying control systems and data acquisition, while not directly robotics, certainly applicable. There are a lot of things that are conventional wisdom about what must be done on real-time operating systems or micro-controllers. The fact is that many of these applications can be done easily on a PC running a reliable OS.
It seams that I have hit more than a few nerves with this attitude on this group, as some of the bigger flame wars have indicated.
Take PID for instance, it is conventional wisdom that you can't implement it well on a PC running a standard operating system. Everyone says I'm going to have to put it on a micro or use a real-time OS, but really, there is no reason too, and a small number of calculations 50~100 times a second is hardly any sort of load on a modern PC. This information is not out there.
In my career, I have been sort of a problem solver type, and there have been few problems I could not work around. I remember at Metrabyte, I was able to get a DAS1800 to stream full speed to a disk file under Windows NT 3.51. At the time, the 233MHZ pentium was fairly standard and the DAS1800 was an ISA bus card. It had never been done before, and previously the only way to do it was to use a realtime OS (I think QNX was out at the time, I don't remember.)
The point was that to accomplish the objective, you couldn't just focus on one aspect of the problem, you needed to take a more systemic approach. By studying the behavior of the OS, and learning its ins and outs, you can usually implement what you want.
So, what I think is innovative about my robot is that I'm approaching it from an OS and computer science perspective, and developing it as an application running on a PC.
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mlw wrote:

This is very true, and you haven't demonstrated it yet. Not by a long shot. You've developed one or two pieces of isolated code, and have yet to implement any kind of sensor system, especially using a hybrid of sensors as is the norm today. You have yet to implement speech and recognition, vision, and other control dynamics, running them all concurrently. What you have so far is no more a "system" than DOS running VisiCalc.
You also continue to mistate what other people have said about the use of microcontrollers. The issue was scaling the system and still being able to handle the wide variety of common robotic functions. No doubt that when you encounter load limitations, you'll back off on features, and claim the design is done. If anyone then tries to add anything, and latency problems occur, it'll be their programming that will be at fault.
-- Gordon
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Gordon McComb wrote:

I've just started this project in earnest a few months ago, and I think I've made some very great progress. Using largely off the shelf technology, I have a system that moves by remote control, has a video camera, a dual wheel opposed drive that can maintain a straight line based a PID system that works very well with variable time slices.

In good time.

I actually have it speaking. I am looking at something like IBM's ViaVoice for recognition.

By "system" I was refering to was the system as a whole, the operating system, the motherboard, and the application.

Please site an example.

That was one of the issues, yes and as I said a few calculations 50~100 times a second are no load on a PC.

No doubt? There is of course a finite amount capacity in any system, so obviously if I never stop adding tasks for the robot, then I will eventually run out of capacity. Will a hobby robot ever be finished? Every robot will eventually be out strapped by additions, so it is inevitable that I will eventually run out of capacity. That doesn't mean you are right. My system will, however be very expandable.
You accuse me of misrepresenting what people have posted, when you are probably one of the worst culprits. I have never said micro-controllers do not have a place, never once. I have said that I have no interest in developing micro-controller code and have no desire to use micro-controllers in a capacity where their function is not well defined. My phrasing may have been different in different posts, but the intent has been consistent. You have taken this to mean that I don't want to use any micro-controller based technology, which isn't true. A self-contained stand-alone device whose behavior is predictable, well defined, and cost effective would be acceptable (linksys router, hard disk, etc.) Again, I've said as much in other posts.

Are you saying that there is *any* system on which no program can screw it up? Of course not, there are always issues. You're probably a Windows user, would you ever stream video to disk, burn a DVD, created an index on a huge database, transcode video to mpeg, play mp3s, surf the web, and run a mandelbrot? Probably not.
The robot may be running on a general purpose computing platform, but it is not a general purpose computing application. There are always constraints.
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screw it

user,
huge
have you ever tried to design a PC with no external microcontrollers that does:
PID voice recognition streaming video to net auto-navigation voice synthesis sonar sensors bump sensors arm control stereo-vision 3d modeling of environment object recognition landmark recognition
?
I would love to see how you get all of this stuff done and not bog your PC like your above mentioned windows-running-many-time-critical-programs scenario.
Rich
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Did you not read the post to which you are responding?

You accuse me of misrepresenting what people have posted, when you are probably one of the worst culprits. I have never said micro-controllers do not have a place, never once. I have said that I have no interest in developing micro-controller code and have no desire to use micro-controllers in a capacity where their function is not well defined. My phrasing may have been different in different posts, but the intent has been consistent. You have taken this to mean that I don't want to use any micro-controller based technology, which isn't true. A self-contained stand-alone device whose behavior is predictable, well defined, and cost effective would be acceptable (linksys router, hard disk, etc.) Again, I've said as much in other posts. <<<<<<<<<<<
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mlw wrote:

If you would characterize linksys router firmware as "predictable", I shudder to think of what you'd consider non-deterministic...
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mlw wrote:

At best this is an evasion. You well know that everyone else has been talking about a microcontroller you program yourself, as opposed to something that comes in a commercial product. Get real.
You keep saying you'll a use microcontroller if its function is well-defined, but you have not said why a custom-programmed microcontroller -- of the type EVERYONE ELSE has been talking about -- cannot have a well-defined function. I can only take that to mean a function *defined by you*, which makes it a guessing game for the rest of us. What fun!
No one is trying to put words in your mouth, but when you don't explain yourself well, this is what happens.
BTW, get a spell checker. There is no such word as "hobbiest."
-- Gordon
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Gordon McComb wrote:

And I will say again, I'm not interested in any micro-controller development.

Think of it this way: If I use an AT/PS2 type keyboard for an input, I know it has a micro-controller on it, it isn't a problem because it is well defined, well constrained, and not something I need to think twice about. Its behavior is understood and well documented. There is a ton of standard interfacing available. That is what I mean by well defined, and I've posted as much in other threads.

Do I have to explain it *every* time I write anything? Because I've explained it a number of times.

I would call you a pedantic twit, but that would be rude.
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mlw wrote:

Nah. This isn't an explanation, but another evasion. The behavior of tested code in some microcontroller is also understood and, especially when source code is provided, well understood.
Try again.

You have to explain it a number of times because you didn't explain it well the first time.

Oh. I was just trying to help you refine your writing, seeing how you want to contribute to magazines, or write a book. I thought you'd want to know. My mistake.
-- Gordon
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