Skip to main content

It is good time 1: Introduction

I have want to write this for a while, a short series of blog posts on why I think this is in an incredible time to be interest in robots and physical computing.

Three posts in the series:
- Introduction
- Small robots
- Social robots

It only takes a quick look on line to see a vibrant and growing network of people who are sharing and supporting each other to use physical computing to do imaginative things. They might go under different names PiJams, Makerspaces, etc but essentially it is about bring people with similar interests (and those are wide) in physical computing together. That is just, physically, but now adding a on-line community that also shares and supports each other you have something that is worth being involved in. If you are unsure  what I mean by this have a look at some of the following people's twitter timelines:
@whaleygeek (https://twitter.com/whaleygeek)
@ martinohanlon (https://twitter.com/martinohanlon)
@simonmonk2 (https://twitter.com/simonmonk2)
+Carrie Anne Philbin @MissPhilbin (https://twitter.com/MissPhilbin)
@Makerspaces_com 
@TheMagP1

From a very long potential list



Powering all this (apart from drive, enthusiasm, creativity, inventiveness, ....of the people involved) is a number of small devices. Two examples include:


  • Arduino (see more on these at https://www.arduino.cc/) which are a range of open-source hardware and software components designed for wide use as the basis of physical digital projects (robots anyone?). These are generally low-cost boards and if you go to Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/) it doesn't take long to find projects and projects that have +Arduino at their core. 

  • Raspberry Pi (https://www.raspberrypi.org/) is one of the other drivers of this. Essentially a low-cost single board computer developed (and well supported) with the intention of being used to teach basic Computing and potential used in the developing countries. I think it took most people with an interest in physical computing probably less than a second start imagining potential things that can be done with it - and so they went on to prove.


Ok, so what? Why does this matter? My opinion this area is fun to start with, but if you look at the creativity that is going on; new products (that are a mixture of genuinely new ideas, radical refinements or lower costs takes) are being created rapidly. This is exciting.

The next two posts will be about small and social robots emerging at the moment.


All opinions in this blog are the Author's and should not in any way be seen as reflecting the views of any organisation the Author has any association with.

Popular posts from this blog

Micro:bit, Servo control with Micropython or blocks

You can control servos (small ones) from a Micro:Bit directly. Following a link from the David Whale (Twitter ) , thank you, took me to a Kitronik blog post, https://www.kitronik.co.uk/blog/using-bbc-microbit-control-servo/, which has the answer.

The code uses Microsoft Blocks taken from the post, runs the servos 180 degrees and back again, when button A is pressed. It does exactly what it should. I am also using the Tower Pro SG90 servo.
Can it be replicated in Micropython? This is a new mini project, there seems to be little out there yet on how do this but the best so far is this video by PHILG2864:



The closest I have is the following, it is essentially there.
from microbit import *
pin0.set_analog_period(20)
while True:
    pin0.write_analog(180)
    sleep(1000)
    pin0.write_analog(1)
    sleep(1000)

Setting the time period to 20ms  pin0.set_analog_period(20)seems by experiment (and used in the video above) to be best value so far. The reason for pin0.write_analog(1)  set to 1 i…

mbots - graphical programming and Arduino

Makeblock (http://mblock.cc/mbot/) funded through Kickstarter the development of a new robot - mBot (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1818505613/mbot-49-educational-robot-for-each-kid) with the subtitle "$49 educational robot for each kid". What they came up with is a interesting system that uses their mBlock software, which resembles Scratch but produces code for Arduino, to program a robot with LEDs, light sensors and buzzer integrated on the main board; but also comes with sensors for line-following, ultrasonic sensor and with the version in the kickstarter reward a 16x8 LED matrix.

My impression so far it is really quite intuitive to work with, in the example above the robot:

moves forward;displays 'f' on the LED matrix; turns right;displays 'r' on the LED matrix;repeats until the on-board is pressed to stop the motors. 

What I like most though is seeing the graphical code turned into Arduino code - the potential to see the same thing done into two ways…

4Tronix Bit:Bot Neuron Controlled Edge follower

In thelast post I was playing with 4Tronix'sBit:Bot. In this post I will show the initial experimentation with an artificial neuron controlling the Bit:Bot to follow the edge of a line (it follows the left-hand side of the line).


The neurons (well two separate ones, S1 and S2) are produced using weighted sums - summing the weights x inputs [ right-hand sensor (rs) and left-hand sensor (ls)] plus a bias for each neuron in this case w[0] and w[3].







    net=w[0]+w[1]*rs+w[2]*ls           net2=w[3]+w[4]*rs+w[5]*ls

  If weighted sum >=0 then its output 1 otherwise 0 if net>=0:          s1=1     else:         s1=0
    if net2>=0:         s2=1     else:         s2=0
What actual causes S1 to be either 1 or 0 is all defined by a set of weights w (three for the first neurone, S1,  three for S2).
w=[0,-1,1,-1,1,-1]


Converting the outputs of the two neurones S1 and S2 into actions is shown below.