There has been an ongoing conversation over on the B9 Builders Club forum about using EZ Robot or other Arduino type of controllers. I'd like to share a post I added to that thread. Get a cup of coffee and a comfy chair and enjoy:
Hi B9 Builders,
I thought I'd add to this thread. Sorry in advance for the long ramblings that follow but please stick with me.
I've been very vocal these past couple years about the advantages to using EZ Robot's EZB. Some people have called it a toy, I call it a God send. Before I found it I was planning on buying an Arduino and learning what ever coding language it required. Up to then I had never written any code. I was pleased to find such a large community using the Arduino with a large amount of code already written that I could piece together.
With that said I still needed to learn how to understand and write a new language and learn how to make it do the things I wanted my robot to do. I mostly wanted voice recognition, a voice of his own that could respond to my questions and motor response to voice commands. I also wanted the robot to appear to move, act and speak on his own with a personality. It all seemed like an overwhelming task. Added to that I had just started building the robot itself and that is nothing to sneeze at as it can be overwhelming also. However this seemed to be the best time to decide how I was going to automate him as I needed to build the motors, joints and sound system into him as I was building.
Then just as I was gathering the pieces of his personality (CF3 Sound system, motors, power supplies, Arduino and books on how to write code) I came across a new company that promised to make all my dreams of robot control come true and more. EZ Robot said they could do everything I mentioned above and also include video camera features like face and movement tracking and joystick control. All this without my having to spend who knows how many years learning complicated coding languages. So I was fully in and haven't regretted my decision or been disappointed sense.
I think there are two kinds of people in the world of Robotics. People who can code and make their robots do what they want and people that cant and wish they could. The latter usually ends up with a display or RC controlled robot. They just don't have the time to spend or the ability to wrap their heads around trying to learn what seems to be an overwhelming learning curve with code writing. I fully fell into this last group and was thrilled and relieved to find EZ Robot. I still had to learn how to code to fully utilize the EZB but it's a much kinder and easy language. Most of the code is written already in the background and the simple commands the user writes seems to just trigger what needs to happen.
It's true that the EZB won't work without being tethered through WiFi to either a Windows laptop, Android tablet or phone or soon to be released Apple product (they are waiting on Apple to approve the app). However being connected to the computer is what gives the EZB the power and flexibility it has. I dont see it as being tethered, I see it as being freeing. I can make changes or control how the robot acts on the fly and have him run as many scripts as I can dream up. These scripts can be run randomly, constantly, on demand or a combination of each. If you want autonomy then build your system and mount a motherboard and hard drive on the robot somewhere and have it boot up when the robot powers up and connect to the EZB automatically. When you want to adjust anything or work on EZ Builder just hook into the robots on board computer remotely. There are many programs that can be used to do this.
What about the sound system? This is a no brainer. Sound files can be stored in folders on your hard drive, triggered by voice recognition or scripts and streamed over Wifi to the EZB where it is sent to a speaker on EZB or the robots sound system. With a simple little modification to the EZB you can tap into it's sound circuit before it's onboard sound amp and send true audio to your own amp and sound system.
All this and more.......................
I have great respect for you guys that can work your magic with writing coed. I really don't know the extent of what could be done with your skills and knowledge. I do know I don't have the time or energy to learn more then the basic understanding of how to do it. My time on this world is limited and my real skills with my mind and hands are in the building and design trades. EZ Robot is perfect for people like me. It lets me concentrate on what I do best (build), have fun, learn about how to implement robotics into my project and end up with an amazing true to life robot that acts and interacts with me like the hero from my childhood.
One thing more for you coding wizards. EZ Robot offers the ability to use SDK:C#, SDK:C++ and SDK:Visual Basic to control the EZB. You dont have to be tied down to using EZ Builder. I really don't understand how it all works but it's been said that this really releases the power of EZ Robot. I also know of several people that use Arduino or their own microcontrollers in tandem with the EZB. They let the other controllers do the heavy lifting of controlling functions that are triggered by the EZB. This frees up the EZB to process other important functions. I do this with all my waist, hip, arm and radar motors. I send serial commands through EZB's Uart port to several Sabertooth / KangarooX2 boards that control these motors. I can also trigger things to happen to my CF3 sound system with the EZB.
Additionally, if I ever motorize my tread section I would make it a separate system operated by RC controlled motors. I feel the same as others have mentioned; that you get better control and safety using this tried and true method. Heck, if hobbyists can fly 100 lb airplanes for miles and land them safely on the ground in front of them then it seems to be the best method to roll my 400 lb B9 around the driveway. ;-)
Thanks and sorry about the long post,
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Just kidding Dave, great write-up, you feel as I do about the abilities of the EZB4) controller. As well as other micro-controller products that can interface and help with sub-routines to support the EZB itself.
Thanks for looking and the support.
Guess the only words i have for them is, "get with the times!" Do they code their own spreadsheet program too? Read email by telneting to port 110? Doesn't make sense why someone would reinvent the wheel and to impress. Because fact is, no one is impressed that someone runs Linux or wrote their own anything... In today's world - we value our time by successes - not the efforts it took to get there!
I get that some people like to "show what they made" - but they certainly didn't make the LEDs and they certainly didn't make the RF transmitter and receiver. And by certain those arduino users sure didn't make the compiler or the chip or the libraries or or or...
So what year is it?
Apparently some people are stuck in limbo between two stages of technology... Where it's okay to use some items that other people made / but it's not okay to use a other prebuilt components? Which tools are okay, and which aren't?
These are most likely the kind of people who had trouble accepting push button telephones, back in the day...
Dave, what you have created is amazing. And you're not alone in wanting respect from people with similar goals and interests. In my world of robotics as well, I deal with it everyday. I spend months of the year meeting with some of the "most influential" people in robotics - once i meet them, their work doesn't impress me because it's crude and dated. The majority of these people are building robots with custom software and hardware that can't be replicated and is custom built each time - of course i scratch my head and wonder how I ever admired them?
There are countless supporters of ezrobot - and we hear from them daily. Those are the people who matter :). Even though the majority supports what we are doing, there are a few which overlook our achievements and/or are unable to comprehend the impact ezrobot is having on robotics.
i read an article from an investment firm about one of their startups taking about how amazing it would be to have an appstore for robots! Ha... Welcome to EZ-Robot 2 years ago!
Then, I sat in a meeting a few weeks ago with the two lead partners of a rather large vc firm who told me robots aren't the future!
Want more? A few "technical diligence" contractors met with me recently who are super "active" in technology, apparently. They bought ezrobots, but don't feel there's a market for robots. So, you bought them, want your kids to use them, want them in your schools - but you don't think robots are the future? Okay - hmm
Maybe no one was listening when Obama said "We need more robots in our schools"
Here's a good one. So there's this tiny group of elitists in Silicon Valley that work with robots - they avoid ezrobot like the plague. I'm sitting on a panel with one of their representatives next week, this should be interesting. Majority of very boring robot companies stick together and act like they're decision makers for the world - fact is, their focus is in a small isolated space, meanwhile the rest of the world is speaking out! The rest of the world is asking for robotics, specially easy robotics! The consumers and educators are demanding simplicity with robotics... And those groups aren't listening.
We are Listening!
We don't receive messages from customers asking for more complicated features... We receive feedback about how to make it even easier - and easier - and easier. We listen! We listen really well, because no matter how often those little isolated robot groups try to ignore us, we keep getting more traction. And more customers. And more users.
Meanwhile, their little isolated robot groups are still clapping about arduino robots that avoid an obstacle after 6 months of complicated programming - and our robots are being used by everyone everywhere.
So Dave, like myself, you may not be accepted in (what you feel) are similar interest groups - fact is, they're not similar interest groups. Your interest to have a REAL FUNCTIONING B9 that impresses the world - at any stake!
They? Well, they are interesting on hanging onto what little they have left of their last success. And that, speaks on behalf of my experience in most of the Silicon Valley as well...
We are your similar interest group, Dave.
If any of you feel we need to give your robots more exposure, help us with ideas and participate in the execution - we can tell the world together.
The small group of these B9 users and other small groups that I have dealt with recently will accept our new easy way of doing things... For the time being, we threaten everything they have worked hard to achieve. And for that, we must sympathize knowing they will eventually and quietly join us.
I (personally) disagree when people say EZ-Robot is a toy, to me its not a toy its a serious robot controller and software, like you have shown what neat things can be achieved with your great B9 robot.
I was developing a tethered (to remote PC) robot controller system as far back as 2005 - this 20Q.net video was done in 2006 and you can see the old system in action here http://youtu.be/24309qikJmM
Then a few years back I came across EZ-Robot, I was so impressed that I changed my whole future robotics business model to encompass the EZB and ARC.
I think that maybe whats happened is that lots of people saw the early stages of EZ-Robot where DJ was hacking toys and doing cool stuff, so they then associated it with toy hacks. But DJ's concept/product has matured light years from those days and is now a serious contender in the robotics sector. What will charge these peoples thoughts will be when they see some of the great robots that are being produced here (like your B9) and their functionality.
I will always defend EZ-Robot until my last breath!
When humans went from not using tools to creating an using tools evolutionarily wise we exploded at a dramatic pace... Up until EZ Robot there have been some robotic tools out there for people to use... Kind of like flint for making fires, stone chips for spear heads, red ochre for drawing etc... You can get the job done, but has anyone ever tried using a flint or rubbing two sticks together to get a fire going? It's not easy and a lot a work to be sure. EZ Robot has given us all a full blown robotics lab for the everyday guy.... I no longer have to rub two sticks together just to get an led to blink.... ...
Just to be clear though, the guys over on the B9 forum were not attacking the EZ Robot platform. They were just sharing how they automated their robots years ago. There's new builders trying to find the best path to the result they prefer. Some want a fully automated robot and others just want to keep it simple. Personally in my opinion ezb is the best choice either way. The only real concern that was voiced was controlling a robot through a Windows platform. There seems to be no way to get away from that with some people. Your always going to have Windows haters.
I also agree that the wave of the future is the way ez robot approaches interaction and controlling robotics. I feel that DJ is sadly correct in that the old timers are hanging on to old coding methods and known devices. It's a matter of money and power. Politics are everywhere. *tired*
Personally it all comes down to the person. I would rather know how everything works but at the same time am not against anyone taking the easy way. As long as you personally are happy with the build you make that is what matters. The biggest issue is that people take negative criticism to close to heart, and a lot of people like to criticize.
For starters I would definitely recommend ez-robot. I have worked with a bunch of processors and when it comes to coding it is far easier to understand your own code then others. So for a platform that allows you to click and have to add very little to a script to have a functioning robot, all for it. I personally would love to see more people advance their knowledge then feel stuck and wondering how they are suppose to go any where before scrapping their project.
Though I would not simply say ez-robot is a stepping stone, as it is still an infant in the industry. I love watching peoples projects evolve from servo driven to the additions of more sensors and watching how ez-robot is more then willing to help support their builders as they find newer sensors they wish to add that have not been supported yet.
I also agree that it is always better to know how things work and people should try to learn. It's sad when I see people who don't know how to do things because they are used to pushing a button and it happens. I see it all the time when they can't do math because of calculators or read a clock face because of digital clocks. I draw the line at when the old school guys get in the way of progress because they want to keep us stuck in the past to keep control and the cash flowing in. I think this is the wall DJ keeps running into that he was eluding to.
It's okay - doesn't bother me, because the majority rules. While many robot companies have a few active members with a few robots built per year - ezrobot grows exponentially larger.
Looking at ordering items for another grandson, to learn about "EZ Robot" Robotics!
Somebody has a vision!
When I joined the B9 builders club, I searched and researched many members robots and techniques and immediately gravitated towards Dave S and his robot for a few reasons. His ability to explain what he was doing in some of his videos and using EZRobot to accomplish this was EXACTLY what I too was looking for in a robot. I had tried to learn a bit of Arduino coding and soon found out that it was not as cheap as it initially seemed and in the end....EZRobot was a much easier way to get commands into the controller without having to mount a tablet or laptop into the robot. With EZB v4 and the wi-fi capability.....my goodness, can it get even easier?
As Dave has graciously shared, there are many ways to have microprocessors augment the functions or compliment the functions provided by EZRobot.
If you have the willingness to learn and change the way you look at things, you can truly achieve some remarkable results!
I'm no rocket scientist but I do like to build and would rather spend my time building and designing circuits and get things working without all the labor of software coding and debugging.
I am using the EZBoard for my B9 and also as part of my inMOOV 3D printed robot...two projects that have been very rewarding being on those journeys so far!
Thanks for sharing. I'm very happy my efforts helped you and lead you to EZ Robot. This platform was a God send to me as I was dreading having to learn enough code to make my B9 do just simple things. It's been over 5 years now and because of EZ Robot I've been able to accomplish things I never thought I could. Sounds like you've come to the same conclusion I did.