Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Battery pack GET.

Got this in the mail for the Hampture Mk.III project some time ago, forgot to mention it here. This is the same battery pack that will be used to recharge the robot in the field. It plugs directly into the solar array out of the box and slowly but surely charges from it while the sun is out.

Since the robot will only consume a small percentage of its power every day, the solar panel is actually kind of overkill. But it needs to be, so that multiple cloudy days don't result in a dead battery. The array is 30 watts, exactly half of what is needed to fully replenish this battery pack in 8 hours (as much useful sunlight as you can get per day). I don't expect this to be a problem as the draw should be pretty modest; the pack only needs to power the charging dock, which will be in use intermittently, and the 4g mifi hotspot which is powered via USB and therefore will hardly add anything to the load.

If everything works as expected and I can find someplace to put all of this where it won't simply be stolen, it should work beautifully. You'll be able to download a program and use it to connect to the robot, steering it and seeing what it sees remotely even though it's off the grid. I am excite.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Solar panels acquired.

After doing a little napkin math to determine exactly how much power the robot would need on a given day (assuming full charging cycles and roughly two of three full discharges per day) I purchased a folding solar kit that I think will be sufficient.

I actually purchased both a 20 and 30 watt model, as I also need a folding solar kit for Hampture, which should have less demanding requirements. In this case the panels will directly charge a lead acid battery pack that will act as a buffer as well as keep the setup running overnight. As soon as I get the battery pack in the mail, I'll be looking into building a weatherproof enclosure for the whole mess, and mounting the robot's charging dock to the side of it.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Laser cannon purchased.

It's not this exact model but it looks very similar.

The robot's LEDs usually send light through decorative "fiber optic" tubes that run throughout the torso and arms, but with those removed I can glue a photosensor over one of the LEDs and have it act as a switch to activate the laser without having to open up the robot and do any soldering. The laser is a different story as I'll need to wire the photosensor in place of the button it uses to toggle the beam on and off.

Anyway, it's in the mail, and I'd like to thank a certain Irish supporter for the most recent donation. Doing stuff like this on a slim budget is very difficult and I rely on donations to move the project forward. I still need the mifi and the solar panels, but there's plenty of time to save up for those as it's not exactly sunny out right now and won't be for a few months. Updates might be sparse (as I can only work as fast as I can afford to buy new parts) but keep checking back, I'll update every time there's something worth telling you guys about.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Battery pack arrives!

The extended battery pack (30% more power!) arrived today and I wasted no time installing it:It came with enough of a charge that I was able to test the robot's functions. Worryingly, I could sign into the robot but not make him move or see video from his camera. So I popped the base back open:After unplugging and replugging the motor cables (which I must've inadvertently pulled loose while installing the battery) the motors responded perfectly to commands from the user interface program. However, still no video. The culrpit? A rusted, corroded USB plug that connects the base of the robot to the camera head. I'm soaking it in cleaning solvent now with the hopes that it's salvageable, if not I've heard certain webcams are compatible when plugged in via adapter as the Spykee's camera is basically just a standard QVGA webcam. More updates to come.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Laser cannon?

The Spykee permits remote control of the motors, but also of two LED lit "fiber optic cable" decorations (which I've removed). This leaves two control channels open that can be used by any sort of powered accessory you might want in place of the nonfunctional (and recently removed) arms. I've heard suggestions ranging from grappling hooks to spear guns, miniature shotguns for hunting, flare guns, weapons seem to be a popular choice but I hesitate to put anything on the robot that would get me in trouble. One of the top suggestions by email was a laser, and it seems compact handheld lasers exist that could be mounted perfectly where one arm used to be and tied into the control circuit that used to turn the decorative LEDs on and off. This would permit remote firing of the laser. As it's really too cold and wet out for the laser to set anything on fire I don't expect there's real danger involved, but even so I would probably leave the laser turned off during public sessions and reserve its use for those who donate. This seems like the most reasonable option, no?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Meet your robotic avatar.

Finally got the robot. The battery's bad, but I've ordered a higher capacity replacement. It should permit nearly four hours of use between charges. I didn't bother to assemble the arms because they're non-functional. Perhaps you can think of some devices to install in their place? A machine that sprays out squirrel feed? A 1 watt laser? A power drill?

Still need money for the solar panels and 4G mifi, but the docking station battery could be the same battery pack I used to power Hampture's air pump so as to save funds. This project might take shape faster than anticipated if I can work out ways to reuse stuff.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The raison d'etre

Still waiting on donations so I can buy components. In the meantime, here's a look at a similar endeavor, the senior project of a group of students at the University of Houston.

There are actually a lot of videos of similar internet controlled robots on Youtube, the original inspiration for the project.

I thought to myself, what if robots like these became a commonplace extension of the internet? What if for every location you can click on for info in Google Earth, you could also click "drive robot" and personally check it out?

The biggest obstacle to this is cost. The components for building custom telepresence robots make it something only hobbyists with a lot of disposable income can consider. The second biggest obstacle is technical expertise. Public access telepresence robots will never become commonplace so long as they have to be custom built by someone at every participating location.

Rather than give up on the idea, having owned a Rovio for some time, and having played with a Spykee I bought for my Nephew last Christmas, I thought "these may be toys, but aren't they good enough? With a few other off the shelf components anyone can afford and put together, couldn't a shop owner, or a hotel manager, or a principal, or anyone interested in having a telepresence robot available for public use set one up?"

So I compiled a list of the necessary capabilities the robot and support station would need to have, and set out looking for products that fit the bill, and that would play nicely together. The result was a design that wouldn't be very pretty and certainly not as efficient as a custom built robot, but one that everyone and their dog is capable of reproducing at home.

It's my hope that once I do this, and show how entertaining/interesting it can be, copycats will spring up. Using the same products or similar, people who ordinarily aren't interested in robotics because of the learning curve or the cost, each making a physical location accessible by telepresence that wasn't before. And who knows? Maybe the next time you want to check out a theater, hotel, restaurant or even nature park before you get there, you'll do it via robot.