31 Mar 2008 RoboDo   » (Journeyer)

RoboDo - Toddler

RoboDo will eventually be a biped humanoid, but that is a long way off. For the moment, I will concern myself with laying the foundations. The RoboDo series of bots is building towards the main project goal.

The latest incarnation in the series is RoboDo Toddler, based on the Lego NXT system. RoboDo Toddler is actually like 2 robots in one.

The top section contains an NXT controller, an ultrasonic sensor with 180 degrees of motion (right-left), and 2 sound sensors. The top section will handle the decision making processes.

The bottom section features an NXT controller, 2 touch sensors, and 2 light sensors.

The top part looks around and maps out where the bot can and can't go from it's current position. It then decides what to do, sets the numerical variable "order" to a number representing its choice, then sends the value to the bottom section via bluetooth.

The bottom section sits and waits for a message. When one is received, it executes the order if possible. It then returns a status message to the top section and waits for further orders.

The bottom section usually just follows the instructions passed to it from the top section, but there are times when it can't follow these instructions. For example, if the bottom section gets an order to move forward when the front bumper sensor shows that way to be blocked, this condition is recognized and the bottom section instead follows instructions specific to this condition.

In any case, the bottom section generates a status message which it sends to the top unit, again via bluetooth. This status message not only lets the top know what's going on in the other unit, it also serves as a timing signal; the top will sit and wait for this message before thinking about its next move.

The NXT-G language seems rather limited, but the custom blocks allow the creation of simple behavior "chunks" which can then be assembled into much more complex behaviors. The graphical interface allows one to make visual sense of the interactions, which makes development go much faster. Yes, I will be going to a more powerful language one day, but NXT-G is perfect for this stage of my project.

Adopting coding standards, even at this early stage, is crucial. Top and Bottom sections may run different code, but they both use the same variables for the same functions. Custom blocks used only by the top section all start with the letter "T" and those used by the bottom start with "B". The icons used also display a consistent pattern. These "small" details will pay big dividends as the project gets more complicated.

The control scheme, based on "orders" and "reports" is simple and effective, and allows co-operation between the sections. The top section decides what to do, but the bottom section is allowed some flexibility in how to carry out the orders. I am starting with a very simple set of possible actions, but once I get the system itself working properly, I expect to develop much more complex responses. I think the basic control scheme will scale up well.

More soon...

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