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WiFi Robot Design Platform

WiFi Robot Design Platform

Roboteq Inc., a developer of motor controllers for the mobile robotics industry, announced the publication of a WiFi robot design platform featuring the Roboteq AX3500 dc motor controller and an Intel Atom processor-based Mini-ITX motherboard.

The robot is a battery-operated, 4 wheel-drive unit built on a 1.5 x 2 feet (46 x 61 cm) aluminum frame with WiFi connectivity and a video camera. The robot can feed live video and can be remotely operated via the Internet. The robot is a technology platform that users interested in robotics can easily replicate to add functionality and intelligence.

Use of the Intel Atom motherboard in the design allows robotics software written for the PC to run on the robot. Microsoft, for example, has released free development tools that can be downloaded to develop this type of robotics application. The Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 R3 (Microsoft RDS) is a Windows-based environment for academic, hobbyist and commercial developers to easily create robotics applications across a wide variety of hardware. RDS 2008 R3 can be downloaded at no charge at www.microsoft.com/robotics.

Detailed assembly instructions for the robot, plus mechanical CAD drawings, wiring diagrams and software can be downloaded free of charge from Roboteq's web site. No license or royalties are needed for their use, and a 3D animation illustrates the step-by-step construction of the chassis.

WiFi Robot Design Platform

Click here for larger image.
The AX3500 motor controller uses two channel outputs to control the motors that power and steer the robot by varying the speed and direction of the motors at each side of the chassis. The controller also has outputs for up to eight RC servos, allowing the control of simple robotic arms and other accessories. The motor controller connects to the Intel Atom motherboard via its RS232 port.

The Intel D510M motherboard was selected because of its 100 percent passive cooling, low power consumption, balanced features set, excellent performance and low cost. Measuring 17 x 17cm, the Mini-ITX form factor is ideally suited to mobile robotic designs. The motherboard runs Windows 7 booting from a SATA hard drive or solid state drive but alternate operating systems such as Linux can also be used. The PC-compatible platform enables significant computational functionality and flexible software development options.

The motherboard consumes only 800mA from the robot's 24V batteries, ensuring several hours of continuous operation depending on motor usage. A power converter ensures proper operation whether the batteries are fully charged or partially depleted.

Another important element of the design is the power supply. An adapter plugs into the ATX power slot in the motherboard, so users can feed from 6-30V dc to regulate a clean supply for the motherboard, disk drive and the RC output for driving the servos. The motherboard, adapter and controller combination provide an integrated solution from an electronics point of view.

Because the design platform offers ample compute power, the ability to control two motors and eight RC servos, plus integrate vision, it provides a portable and flexible system that can be adapted for a wide range of applications.
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