Hey everyone - first post...
I've looked through various websites, books, etc., and I'm a little overwhelmed. I know there's lots of ways to do things, but I don't want to reinvent the wheel when it comes to controlling motors or servos.
Basically, I want my robot brain to be programmed in C on a PC (preferably a Mac though). I don't need any help on C coding - I've got plenty of experience there. I also don't need much help on fabrication, mechanical design, etc.
What I do need help on is to be pointed in the right direction for choosing off the shelf premade boards for controlling motors and servos. Let me give a simple example: I want two servos to provide pan and tilt to a video camera. The servos will take direction from my C code which exists on the PC (or Mac). Presumably, (I'm not sure here), the code communicates to the board via the parallel port, or perhaps a USB port.
So, that would be great if someone could recommend some great (and time tested) products that will allow:
-- Easy plugging in of servos or motors to a motor controller board
-- Easy interfacing to a computer via the parallel port or a USB port
-- Options for power to come from the computer or externally
-- It would also be great if the flexibility of daisy chaining or stacking for the ability to add many more motors/controllers and still communicate through the one port existed
-- Not terribly expensive
Am I right to assume that the Roboduino is a good option? What are other alternatives?
Also, what is the best way to interface miniature video cameras to a PC (or Mac)? What I mean is: I suppose I could buy a webcam and use their software SDKs, but I'd rather not have the plastic shell which a webcam is mounted in. Yes, I might be able to remove the plastic shell, but if a more raw camera is available which can still be interfaced to the PC and its input put into a buffer which can be accessed via program code, that would be great. Any info?
One more question: I'm sure many of you are familiar with the MIT Personal Robots Group. On that site, they mention voice coil-type electromagnetic actuators. Do any of you have experience with these types of actuators? Are they readily available, and do controller boards as described above exist to control them?
Link to actuators at MIT Personal Robots Group: http://robotic.media.mit.edu/projects/hardware/actuators/overview/overview.html