Raspberry Pi or RBPi is the ubiquitous low-cost, credit card sized single board computer with huge potential starting from teaching youngsters computer programming to driving robots on Mars. However, when Tyler Spadgenske tried his hands on RBPi, he used the SBC to create Andy – a completely open-source humanoid robot.
Tyler has tried to make Andy a connected robot. Andy can connect to humans through speech, using language as humans do – for answering questions. With access to the Internet, he (Tyler assures Andy is male) can also talk to client programs over the Web. With ability to connect via Bluetooth, Andy communicates with other robots such as the Mindstorms NXT.
Using a bipedal mechanism that offers him mobility, Andy can do additional tasks such as moving stuff. Of course, Andy has his limitations, but then, he can collaborate with other robots to get those things done, which he cannot. Tyler has given Andy only speech as the user interface, since he feels a humanoid should have no other. However, that does not limit Andy from interfacing with other computers over the Internet, because basically, he is a computer himself.
Initially Tyler was using Robosapien for Andy’s bipedal movement, but that did not work out satisfactorily. He is using a new bipedal system using SolidWorks. Later, Tyler plans to add a torso, a head and arms for Andy, again using SolidWorks and 3D printing.
Starting up Andy is very simple – flip the switch on his back to the on position. Andy has LiPo batteries rated for 11.1V, 1.3A and 1300mAH. These power his motors through the L298 motor drivers, which the RBPi drives. As soon as the RBPi receives power, which is regulated with a UBEC, it starts executing Andy’s software. This begins with some configuration checks such as for starting the server and running some modes. Then Andy settles down and prepares to listen to his microphones.
Now, Andy is up and running as a state machine. He will listen to commands from either his microphones or his server – first converting any command received from either to text and then executing it.
After converting the command to text form, Andy interprets it by comparing it to the command set in his repertoire. That gives him the correct function he must execute for a specific command. For example, for a shutdown command, Andy initiates a complete sequential software and hardware shutdown, ultimately switching himself off. For any other command, however, Andy executes it and then goes back to wait for commands from his microphone or server.
Andy’s brain, the RBPi, controls almost everything for him, including speech recognition and motor control to Andy’s software. Andy has three L298 motor drivers, with each capable of controlling and driving two motors each. Therefore, Andy is capable of driving a total of six motors. As the RBPi had only a limited GPIO pins, Tyler had to expand them using an MCP23017 chip.
Tyler plans to give Andy 10 degrees of freedom with the new SolidWorks hardware. His new features will include monitoring the battery voltage, a power on LED, an LED output with five segments and ten servos – six for the arms and four for the legs.