After palying with Lego (and learning in the process) I have decided to pursue my deam to have a servant robot doing chores and listening to my voice commands. With the little experience I had at the time, I have decided to buy the ER1 kit from Evolution Robotics.
The kit has some hardware pieces, a couple of stepper motors, a controller, a webcam, a battery and a powerfull vision software. Just plug them in your laptop and enjoy a vision and voice enabled robot! Well, you have to program it first, using IF-THEN iterations, good for some easy tasks, but anoying for something a little more advanced. Before going further with the programming, I wanted it to be able to manipulate objects, so I have built an arm and a pan/tilt head. Then I have named it ER1C (ER1 customised), which of course, it reads Eric. I added 2 blue LEDs that make nice blue eyes and a VU-meter with a 10 LED bar as a mouth. It works great if the sound is loud enough and it makes a nice effect.
Here are some pictures of it:
Eric had a few flaws, the main one being the arm too big and heavy for those servos. Also the gripper looked ugly. And the head was too… Square Pants Sponge Bob like. Then I got a newer laptop and it didn’t fit in the frame, as you can see in the above picture. All that, and moving back to Romania, made me think to redesign it.
I bought a VIA Epia motherboard, with 256MB RAM and a 1GB Compact Flash card as a IDE drive. I found a cool Dell desktop case and mounted everything inside, including the shoulder servo, audio amplifier, USB2.0 PCI card, OOPic-R microcontroller. I have redesigned the pan/tilt head and also the arm, this time using Lego Technic elements to buid a 4 digit adaptive hand. The arm is still a little bit too long, but I’ll just get more powerfull servos for it. It looks cool, but the CF card is too small for XP so I will try to find a laptop HDD to fit XP and Gentoo. A friend of mine offered to help me program it in Python, so let’s see, maybe this will work… I have installed 4 Sharp IR sensors, connected directly to the RCM’s (robot controll module) analog ports, but had not much success reading them. Also I’ve installed 4 Ping ultrasonic sensors, connected to the OOPic-R board, but it seems that OOPic can’t generate the 5us trigger signal, so I will have to replace the microcontroller soon.
Here are some pics of the second version:
Well, I moved again, this time to Canada… I could not take all the parts with me because of weight. The desktop case and the battery were left behind. Now I have it back to the basic form and I just got a battery from a surplus store and a laptop HDD. I am in the process of installing the motherboard in some plastic box together with a laptop HDD and a different microcontroller to be able to use the Ping ultrasonic sensors that I have. I should also add a compass, to help me out with the map directions. With the help of the friends from Society of Robots I will have this baby up and running pretty soon!