Society of Robots - Robot Forum

Software => Software => Topic started by: Davros on March 27, 2011, 11:49:47 PM

Title: Which robotics system for is best me?
Post by: Davros on March 27, 2011, 11:49:47 PM
This is not a broad "which system is best?" question, and not intended to start a religious war; I just want to know what's best for me.

I have come to realize that non-techie people don't respond too well to tech descriptions. Even documents and PowerPoints presentations can leave them puzzled, but if you show them something physical then their eyes light up and they see not only what is in front of them but also many further possibilities.

So, I want to make a demo or two.

I develop software. It either works with the customer's existing hardware or I buy them some off the shelf hardware, and then I develop some software to speak to their hardware, an ODBC database (usually MySql) to store data and a browser based application to control the hardware and analyze the data, generate reports, trigger alarms, etc.

The sort of systems we are talking of are all surprisingly similar when viewed at a high level: asset/employee/vehicle tracking; stock control; data acquisition (reading of temperature, pressure, voltage, etc).

I could go on, but it's basically data acquisition/telemetry/SCADA/process control. At the hardware end can be RDIF tags, GPS sensors, Modbus and the like, etc, etc

So, what's a good system for me to develop some demos? A hard requirement is that the robot should not just load a program and go away and execute it independently of the PC. The robot should have some sensors and should report values to the PC program (which will add them to the database) and should also accept commands from the PC program (even if I have to develop my own command language and have the robot program interpret it).

And what might be some good demos? - a maze runner, where I can show the current location on in a desktop or browser program, with the robot representing an employee or a fork-lift ? (or even a vehicle & I could show it on google maps) - maybe it could pick up RFID tags and scan them (or carry them to a scanner) to identify them to the PC app and then move them form room to room, with new tags appears at goods inwards & disappearing at shipping? That would simulate stock control. - maybe stick some bright light or heat source, etc, somewhere and have the robot sense it? - allow the robot to be controlled from the desktop app or browser

any other ideas?
Title: Re: Which robotics system for is best me?
Post by: mstacho on March 28, 2011, 08:05:35 AM
I'm not sure about your budget or the size/professionalism you want to put into this, but you seem to want something more professional than just building it from scratch in your garage.  So: (

Those are cool (although I've never used them), they are self-contained robotic development platforms that do just about anything (just add sensors...) and have a PC interface.  Since you develop software, in theory you can show your prowess at the various frameworks that these come in (I think the one I linked is a .net platform, but they have a linux one as well)

These (and similar platforms) are used quite a bit in research: (  I've come across two of these, and they're generally nice if you want a small demo platform or if you're working with swarms.   Depending on how functional a robot you want to make, these platforms are really good (although it's up to you to supply sensors, for the most part, and write the code to use them).

Believe it or not, a lot of people are modifying roombas and controlling them via netbooks.  This is a much cheaper option and it can allow you to demonstrate swarm robotics applications.

As something else to look into, check this one out: (  That one seems to come with more sensors and functionality than others, but I can't speak to its usefulness since I've never used it.
Title: Re: Which robotics system for is best me?
Post by: Davros on March 28, 2011, 08:34:19 PM
Wow, that's, that's some good info. Thanks.

I am new here and notice a "helpful?" next to your post. Is there any way I can vote it up or add positive ffedback for you?
Title: Re: Which robotics system for is best me?
Post by: rbtying on March 28, 2011, 09:37:42 PM
The [click for yes] link upvotes - there's no downvoting implemented.
Title: Re: Which robotics system for is best me?
Post by: mstacho on March 29, 2011, 06:52:46 AM
Glad I could help.