Tag Archives: robotics

Raspberry Pi Model B+

The Raspberry Pi Model B+ is the latest model in the Raspberry Pi stable of computers. It is a credit card sized computer that can run a number of operating systems including Linux and Android, it was originally aimed at teaching children computing, programming and electronics but has been embraced by a whole community of people interested in its potential.

Raspberry Pi Model B+

With the GPIO (general purpose input/output) pins on the board many different electrical devices can be controlled; from turning an LED (light emitting diode) on and off to driving motors and taking readings from distance measuring devices. This makes it very useful for controlling robotics such as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and Rovers.

By the inclusion of a battery pack it can be made completely portable, with the computer being controlled remotely via Wi-Fi using a wireless dongle and using either the SSH (Secure Shell) command prompt interface or the VNC (Virtual Network Computing) virtual desktop application, you can even use your mobile phone – http://www.raspberrypi.org/piui-control-your-pi-with-your-phone/.

The model B+ costs around £25.

Camera Module
Although the Raspberry Pi itself comes with no digital recording capabilities out of the box, for another £25 the camera module can be purchased and used to record video at 1080p30, 720p60 and VGA90 modes and images can be captured with its 5 megapixel camera.

Potential
The previous versions of the Raspberry Pi have already been used in robotics projects such as controlling Rovers and UAVs to controlling photographic recording stations. With extra GPIO pins and a more powerful computer this potential can be added to.
http://makezine.com/2013/07/06/the-raspberry-rover/
Rover

http://www.botched.co.uk/
UAV

It can be used to make cheaper versions of technology which already perform a usefully function; such as this gigapixel camera rig which takes overlapping DSLR photographs with preset motorised rotation and elevation of the rig set by the software on the Raspberry Pi, with the rotation being also controlled by the Raspberry Pi using a stepper motor whose rotation can be set accurately. The images can later be stitched together in software. A commercial version of this system is the GigaPan EPIC Pro gigapixel camera rig which costs $995. The software for the project is free to download. Free software solutions for stiching panorama photos together also exist, such as http://hugin.sourceforge.net/ and Microsoft’s ICE (Image Composite Editor) http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/groups/ivm/ICE/
Gigapixel Camera Rig
An example gigapixel image using the rig can be seen here.
Gigapixel
An example of a GigaPan capture undertaken with an EPIC Pro by the author and a colleague on the site of Netley Abbey in Hampshire as part of a recording project can be seen here.

Netley Abbey - GigaPan

Maker movement companies such have Adafruit have embraced the Raspberry Pi designing by building and selling many addons, including motor controller boards and touch screens.

Limiting factors
The Raspberry Pi can run many useful pieces of software but it is limited by it’s processing power, although multiple Pi’s could be used for different parts of a project.

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BrickPi

The BrickPi is a Kickstarter project by Dexter Industries to build a module that connects to a Raspberry Pi and can control LEGO Mindstorms sensors and motors, it comes with a case which can connect to LEGO Technical parts and allows the construction of robotic projects.

It is open source hardware and software.

http://www.dexterindustries.com/BrickPi/

The BrickPi system costs $140.

LEGO Mindstorms
The LEGO Mindstorms system was introduced in 1998 giving the ability to create robotic systems using a series of sensors, motors and LEGO technical parts. It works both as a toy and as an educational tool

The technology centres on the intelligent brick which attaches to and controls a set of modular sensors and motors, all of which can be connected to LEGO parts from the Technics line allowing the creations of robotic systems.

A large community of both professional and hobbyists has built up around the technology, sharing design and programming techniques.

A standard LEGO Mindstorms set costs £215.

A number of LEGO accessories have been created for photographers including a robotized panoramic head and turntable for object photography.

LEGO is even being used to create a LEGO drone in a kickstarter project.

LEGO dron

Benefits
The LEGO Mindstorms system has many great potential using the LEGO Technical system to create complex mechanisms.

The ability to connect this to the Raspberry Pi combines the abilities of the two systems, allowing the Raspberry Pi to control robotics in a simple way which requires no understanding of electronics, while still providing all of the abilities of the Raspberry Pi.

LEGO has also been demonstrated to be an excellent tool in the construction of products including turntables, which would be useful in artifact photography, and in the creation of motorised panoramic camera heads. The inclusion of a Raspberry Pi would increased processing power and control to this ability.

Limitations
If you already own a LEGO Mindstorms kit and want to use the technology in combination with a Raspberry Pi, then this kit is very useful. But if you have to buy both the kits and a Raspberry Pi then you would have to pay quite a lot of money. It would be cheaper to learn electronics and buy the individual parts that you required.