Monday, 15 June 2009

Bristol Robotics Lab Visit 11/06/09 part one.

Two weeks ago on the 1st of June York university received a shipment of ten epucks. The e-puck is a small and versatile little robot which is packed with sensors. It's got 8 IR sensors, microphones, a speaker, accelerometers, a camera, bluetooth and probably more stuff I haven't listed, all controlled by a PIC; there's a wikipedia article here. Anyway it is my job at the moment to get these robots up and running so that they can be used for swarming experiments by students at this uni, probably masters students and some PhD people like me. What I need to do is to set them up so that you can write a Player/Stage simulation, and the code for your simulation can also be used on the real robots. Now, Player/Stage drivers for the e-puck have already been written and are freely available here so surely my job is done?

Well no. For one thing, the existing Player drivers require that a small piece of code is loaded to the epuck and then your Player/Stage code is run on the computer, commands are sent to your robot via bluetooth. So far my experience with bluetooth and epucks has not been good, mostly this has been down to a lack of drivers, generally I find the connection between the computer and an epuck to be rather fragile. Mostly what I'm doing at the moment is installing Linux onto the robots. Yes that's right, I'm installing linux onto robots that are controlled by a PIC.
It turns out that most of the hard work has been done in this regard. My colleague Wenguo Liu at the Bristol Robotics Lab has designed an extension to the epuck which is basically a tiny computer which runs linux. It's my job to take these boards and to install them onto our epucks. The linux board technology is pretty new at the moment, so much so that they are waiting for a paper on them to be published before they make the board designs and information open source.

This is why, on the 11th of June 2009 I visited the Bristol Robotics Lab...

1 comment:

  1. Hi JENNY,

    I'm interested in your blog about Player/stage,
    I have a project PIC microcontroller, I need to communicate PIC with Player via RS232, Could you share ideal to help me, Thank you,

    Dong, Vietnam