Let's Make Robots!

Treading water? Dog paddling?

T

That's K9. Or at least it will be soon, I hope. The plan was to build him first as a security robot based on a Mega 2560 and then for Mark II, to upgrade it to full Doctor Who mode:voice recognition and a wifi connection to Google so it would be a Wikipedia on wheels...with a laser in its nose.

The piece-de-resistance of Mk II though was going to be the clever fitness of the microcomputer I'd selected for it: the BeagleBoard. (Get it?) Of course not only does the BeagleBoard have a great name for a dog-themed robot, but it has a lot of power, built in audio in/out, three PWM channels for motor control, camera connection, and on and on.

The Beagle is tricky to get up and running though. If your main desktop machine is a Mac then getting a working image on the MMC is maddening. The USB just doesn't want to work. I had it up and functioning for one night with some help from Bird, and then poof-it disappeared.

In the meantime, the opportunity to pick up a Raspberry Pi presented itself and I couldn't resist. It's not as high-functioning as the Beagle, but there is a much bigger community (and in my case, that it functions at all is a huge improvement over the other Linux machine.)  Getting it was a chance to "bone up" on my Linux/c programming and the shell concepts in general in preparation for the heavy lifting I'd have to do once I dropped the Beagle into the robot. Then I had some modest exhilaration from a few successful RaspPi projects and I began wondering "why not just use the Pi for the K9 brain?"

And wondering that pissed me off.

There's no good reason not to, and no great reason to give up on the Beagle (other than repeated failure, I guess.)  The fact is I could easily (and quickly) do everything I'd planned to with the Pi. Maybe it would be a little slower on the draw, but it would still be possible.

But I'm so far ahead of myself at this point that it probably doesn't matter. This project, though in some ways simpler than any previous robot I've built, is expansive enough that it could take years to complete. I know that sometimes I get "software disenchantment" once the physical object is built, but this feels like something else. This feels like the dog has been  on the bench begging me for a metaphorical belly-rub.

So anyway, that's where I'm at and where I'm likely to be for a while. That's why I haven't added a (serious) new robot project in a while. I hope that by getting this on the blog I'll inspire myself to move forward, maybe to remind myself of the plan or just to see it as letters so it's something I've committed to. In the meantime, if anyone has a known working disk image on an MMC for the BeagleBoard, I'm willing to make it worth your while to sell it to me!

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http://www.aonsquared.co.uk/raspi_voice_control Very cool instructions. Once holidays begin I'll be trying to get it working myself. It should work even better on the Beagleboard though...?
Maxhirez's picture

I couldn't tell what he was using as a motor controller for that arm, but  I know OWI makes one that's essentially a USB controller for Windows machines.  Also, it didn't work that well but that's essentially the system I'm looking at for voice control.

birdmun's picture

I still have dreams of making a mini K-9.