Let's Make Robots!

Ant Bots and Spyder Bots--My Version of Swarm Robots on LMR

Just browsing through LMR, I found that many people are interested in the concept of making swarm bots (the most prominent being Lumi and his team, Aaronsuper1 and warnew). After a short discussion with each of the 3 I mention via shoutbox, I decided that swarm bot is going to be my second project. This project is still a long way from reality as I haven't even started with my first project yet (as on 7th May, 2012) but as my first project is almost complete in the planning phase and there is still time before I start making it, I'll use my time to brainstorm this project and store my ideas.

Well so here it goes-

Main objective- Build a swarm of robots that represents a community of ants and make it self sustainable.

Types of Robots and their Functions-

1. Mother/Mom/Queen- This is a one of its kind robot (ie one in number). It is stationary, located at the center of the map, has IR beacons to locate itself, all other robots and communicate with them using modulated IR. It will feature an Ardiuno Mega 2560 as a core processor and a lot of 24LC512 EEPROM to store and locate other bots, obstacles, resources etc. The map thus created will be accurate upto 1cm*1cm. The IR locator transmitter will be mounted on continuous rotation servos. Excluding the cost of Mega, the maximum amount to be spent on these are $15.

2. Explorer bots- These bots are going to be speedy and tiny but will be equipped with the most advanced tools for exploration. Featuring IR sensors of the quality which can not only detect an object but it's dimensions too. They will also be equip ped with standard color sensors and optional ones will feature ultrasonic to work in environs where ir fails. These will have an Atmega 8 as it's brain and also have the similar transmitting infrared to communicate herwith mother to transmit data to her. These will feature at minimum 1 and at maximum 2 servos for transmission. The plan is to keep the cost close to $5 to $7.

3. Worker- Next in the list is worker bots. As the name suggests these robots do the dirty job of working. They will be of 2 types-

a) The porters- These robots are simple electromechanical equivalents of today's diggers. The main objective for these robots is to find the articles that the mother dictates and bring them back to the starting point. They will navigate using motors fitted with encoders and will have infrared receivers and transmitters to communicate with mother. Plan initially is to keep these robots without any programmable microcontroller or ic but a lot can be changed during development. These will feature digging arms powered by MG 995 servos from Tower pro.

b) The fortifier- This special worker robot will be used to create a fortress near mother using the material supplied by the porters. Most certainly, there will be just one fortifier that too connected to mother but it will have precision ir to recognize the object it has to use.

The plan is to keep the cost of the workers under $10 and initially maybe none, of these are made or atmost one is. This part of the plan is still in the brainstorming stage and is subject to development.

4. Soldiers- No colony of ants is complete without it's trusted soldiers. The soldiers of my swarm will have a stinger like no other. Featuring a rotatory drill (motor with a sharp pointed object), these robots will be deadly killers. Again, these will be based on Atmega 8 and have a single ir led for both navigation and communication. Can be used for detecting lost workers and explorers as they will be autonomous and after the point of no return (ie where mother can't contact it), it elm become mother and ask the lost robots to find it's link by transmitting the same link. If the bot is kidnapped (initially by me), it will use the weapon of its choice. It will be tried to use the same or a different motor for transmission. This robot will be the last that I develop. It may have a L293D motor driver but it will definitely be tried to keep the cost under $10.

Working- The working is simple. When I switch on the mother, she locates all her allies and finds who is who .depending on the bot number. Then it starts giving out orders. It first sends the explorers to observe the neighboring area. They reply by giving mother information on what the object is, it's location, dimension, and color. If anything that has a regular shape and can be used in construction, the mother will send the porters to tow it back to start point and then will order the fortifier to build a fortress with it. If in the process, a robot gets lost or it senses something present within it's range, it will deploy the soldiers to find it and deal with it. The mother will have a real time tracking system using which it'll keep an eye on the bots, command them of they go out of place and command them to do their jobs. This system requires a lot if memory and hence the EEPROM s used should be a good number.

Now that I'm done explaining you what I want to do, it's your time to help me by posting links which may help me.

I have to make custom PCBs for all robots using Atmega 8 for which I plan to use this PCB and this Drill.

**********Update**********

I've asked others about battle between swarms but it doesn't seem like a popular idea so I've decided to make not one but 2 swarms of 5-10 robots each to simulate the battle. Rules will be simple-

1. There are two clan's- The ants and the spiders. Both clan's have same number of robots but there may be very minute differences.

2. The two clan's will be hunter gatherer's. They'll go around in the environment to find what they need and then bring it back to fortify themselves. The members of opposite clan can steal the resources of the other clan as well.

3. The battle will be between the soldiers of the swarms. Soldiers have the task of killing other soldiers and workers and defending their fortress. A battle will be won if all the opposition workers and soldiers are killed and the opposite fortress is breached. The way the soldiers will kill opposition is yet to be decided and I'm open to ideas on it.

The spider colony is going to be similar to the ants. It'll feature a mother like which'll be an old spider (like aragog in Harry Potter books and movies). The workers will have pincer to lift the objects and will be dumb like the ants. The soldiers will have pincers (to tear through flesh). The explorers will have a compound eye as the ant explorers do. The robots other than workers and mother will be 3 servo hexa pods like Jax' 3 servo hexa pods (I'll repost the link). Workers are more likely to be like my autobot except with less features. Mother will have dummy legs.

Any input is really appreciated.

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That PCB you are using needs etched. Have you etched your own boards before? It can be tricky.

 

Here are a couple pictures of ants showing the army ants have a bigger head and large pincers.

The second is a worker ant.

I thought of having a cut-off switch hooked to an interrupt, so if the enemy gets a hold of the switch and it gets pressed, then it will interrupt the program instantly and it could go to power down more, --or at least go to an endless loop in the program where it does nothing until it is switched off or reset. The switches could be hooked to a piece of plastic, wood or metal on the head or neck. The enemy would have to pinch them there to get the kill.

About the Mega chip, since it is made as a surface mount, you really need to buy a whole Arduino Mega board. I bought one recently for about $22 US. That is the cheapest I have seen to whole boards.  Just the chip by itself is cheaper.

 

 

Thanks for your views dan. I'm almost certainly going to use a cutoff switch but it's going to be on both the workers and the soldiers as soldiers of the different clans will kill each other too. Pincers are going to be my main weapon of attack but as the spiders will have legs and will be slow, they'll have bigger pincers than the ants.

As for the mega, don't worry about it. I'm going to but it in $17 flat with free DHL Express delivery :)

Big goals. Good luck with your project. I hope all the swarm projects started recently will be done some time.

Nice project, I think it is the most elaborate so far. I have started my project some two years ago, when you couldn't find parts so cheap, my goal was to keep the cost under about $30 for each robot. I am puzzeled you didn't find it before to mention it... Anyway, in my initial project I wanted to keep it as simple as possible, using only 2 types of robots, but later I had thoughts for different types of robots and I incorporated that idea in the RoboCraft project. Although the Ant Farm project is on the back burner, the RoboCraft project is going to be done in a few months, I really want to do it. Once I will have it working, I will use it as a prototype and scale it down and make it fully autonomous.

I didn't see your project till now. The three people whom I mention, aaron, lumi and warnew, are people with whom I've discussed this project via shoutbox so I give special mention to them. As for completing the project, I don't hope to complete it before and of July as my attention will totally be focused on completing your challenge and making Autobot. Thanks for saying this is well documented though!

Heh, I wrote the message fast, I guess I did not wanted to sound too harsh or upset, as I am not. I really love your project and I sincerely hope you'll get it through.

Since there are several similar projects, I will be writing a new version of the project that just came to my mind. I'll post the link soon.

here it is: http://letsmakerobots.com/node/32569

Do you really need a map?

What I mean is you can probably be allright with just vectors (directions with lengths) or just the coordinates of each point of interest?

Much less info to store and process, and your small bots will have the bacis self defense (don'get stuck, don't fall down) sensors anyway, won't they?