First of all, I want to key you in on what I found in Phoenix where I work yesterday - the Mcdonalds Robosapien Adventure meal! If your thing is those crazy humanoid bipeds, the minuature one at Mcdonalds will surely excite you.
Now, onto our project. We got our parts in the mail last night for our PicBot 5 program, Docking Logic. This will be the most extensive, lavishly illustrated project yet in this series, which have been recieved very well so far in the world wide robotics community Im happy to say. HEre is the outline for what we will be researching in "Docking Logic":
1. The Beacon sensor will be the venerable but getting obsolete Panasonic PNA4602, which runs at 38.5 khz. This will not interfere with the IR Prox sensors, which are the IS471 which run at a very different 8 khz. First we will determine the range for various IR LED combinations at the beacon source.
2. Next, we will evaluate using a omni cone reflector on the reciever and determine range and cone configuration.
3. Directional sensor design for homing on the beacon.
4. Robot path tracking from current position to beacon docking. I assume it will be some sort of zig zag S curve.
5. Beacon beam path aquisition. In other words, what to do when we encounter the docking beacon beam.
6. Charging base docking envelope. How accurately can we stop at the beacon in a position ready to charge?
7. STopping at the beacon/charging base in the exact spot without hitting it.
8. Electrical contacts for the determined docking postion envelope.
9. Error correction if docking is unsuccessful. In other words, adding some AI to the docking proceedure so the robot can react more intelligently to mis docking issues.
10. Spin Nav docking. (looking for the beacon with a photocell at the bottom of a tube)
11. Maybe docking with an omni sensor. (the Roomba uses this rather dubious method)
Note that I wont be covering the actual chargin proceedure yet, thats the Picbot 6 project!
Anyway, its going to be the most exciting project yet, and should fill a huge gap in the knowledge base for online tutorials on a subject that is often considered way too difficult to implement in a home robot - self charging.