Sunday, February 26, 2012

Getting Started

Probably the best place to get started is with the overall goal. I have worked as a software developer for almost 20 years, specializing in video exploitation. I often deal with all types of optical sensor systems and  associated meta-data. Usually when the data gets to me, it is heavily processed. I decided to learn more about IMU/INS/GPS at the sensor level. A little googling lead me to discover the Arduino boards. This is very appealing since there is a large base of sensors and software to draw from and you can get raw sensor measurements quickly and easily.

I figured I would write this blog as a way of documenting what worked and did not work. In addition, it will give me a place to store all the information gathered in a step by step set of instructions that I can come back to later. So the goal is to learn things and document them. If you find this useful, all the better. If others can correct my mistakes before they get too out of hand that would be greatly appreciated.

I am envisioning three successive projects with the end goal of developing an autonomous robot that builds a map of its environment. The so-called SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) problem is something I have done work on in the past so I understand the challenges associated with this undertaking. The projects are:

  1. A small scale 2W robot that fits in the palm of your hand. I am thinking something along the lines of dfrobot-2wd-mobile-platform with an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer. This project will focus on getting the sensors to work and initial dead reckoning.
  2. A medium scale robot build on a hacked apart roomba. This would add a camera (or perhaps stereo) to estimate 3D structure in the scene. The Arduino does not seem to have the processing power to deal with image processing, so this will probably involve a companion SBC (single board computer) using a PC104 form factor. The roomba battery should be able to support this, time will tell.
  3. A large scale robot using GPS and more powerful motors. This plan is less thought out, but there seems to be several sites discussing use of wheel chair motors.
So the goal is learning (and documenting), the projects are laid out, next step is to start learning. I ordered an introduction to the Arduino on amazon. Seems like the most basic place to start.....

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