Sunday, January 27, 2013

Remotely operated rover with Android and IOIO - Goals

Hello, interested reader. I have benefited so much from other people's blog posts, both in my hobbies and my professional life, that I decided it was high time I contributed a little. I hope that someone finds it useful.

I've been interested in remotely operated vehicles for some time -  projects like those on DIY Drones, OpenROV, and plenty of others are absolutely fascinating to me. I like the idea of being able to send a machine into inaccessible areas for science or exploration. I decided to focus on a network-driven rover at first, with the intent of learning what it takes to drive something over a network.

My intend is to document that process here. I've seen similar projects on the web, but I've never seen the design process documented - the tradeoffs, the software architechture, the naive assumptions that proved wrong. So that's what I'll try to do.

The idea was to send commands from a computer or tablet to an Android phone, which would interface to the very cool IOIO board. Android phones have the advantage of packing a lot of processing power into a small, low power package, along with numerous sensors. That makes it a pretty attractive platform for a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) or robot.

I wanted to be able to send back sensor data from the rover, such as video, voltage levels, accelerometers, GPS data, etc. and display them on a simple console. So on the network, the command traffic would look like:

rover sends current sensor data to console
console sends back commands (turn on motors, etc)
repeat

Video would be handled on a separate connection.

This seems simple. If you've ever done socket and thread programming, it probably is. If you've never done that, or written a program for Android, it's not so simple, and it's an excellent learning experience. It's also a ton of fun.. getting an LED to turn on in response to a command over the network the first time is seriously cool.

With that basic overview, future posts will detail what I'm learning as I go, what works, what didn't, etc.

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