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New To Robotics - Have Questions - Need Input

Hi all,

I was pointed in this direction by a facebook group "I Want To Customize My Johnny 5 Toy Robot!" and I'm looking to get started in Robotics. I did about 5 hours of research last night, watching videos, reading these forums / articles to understand the best place to start (e.g. Arduino vs EZ Robot).

For me, the choice was made due to programming constraints. I'm a .NET programmer and so think I'd enjoy programming in .NET for robotics. I do have a few questions that I hope the community can help me with.

1. My biggest issue with modern robotics (Cozmo etc) is that the "brain" is either a smartphone or a pc (basically cloud / remote). I saw in the forums a few people have used micro pc's and DJ mentioned support for DIY Makers in the future for adding a "brain" to a robot rather than using cloud / remote. Could someone elaborate on this or provide an example of a good micro pc I could use?

2. I saw DJ's post on the forum splitting the brand into an educational brand and a DIY Makers brand which means both will have more focus going forward. This is great to see, both brands look like they're supported and loved. My question though is should I wait for the DIY Maker brand to go live before buying the dev kit? Will the price change, will there be a new version e.g. EZ-Bv5 etc once the DIY Makers site goes live?

3. I also am big on community and sharing so would like to participate, just wondering if I should wait for the split before joining in on discussions in the forum etc.

4. Solar panels. I want to eventually make my creations / minions self sustaining e.g. Seek sunlight when running out of power, much like our beloved Wall-E does. Is this possible with EZ Robot currently?

Looking forward to working with you all in the future,

Nixvii,
Simon

#1  
Hi Simon,

Welcome to the family!

I'll try to help with your questions. I'm sure you'll get a lot of other help also from other members.

1. provide an example of a good micro pc I could use?
This is a great way to go to make your robot autonomous. It's been done a lot with EZ Robot builds. The most popular mini PC so far seems to be the LattePanda. It also now has integrated Arduino that ARC can use as a slave.
www.lattepanda.com/

2. should I wait for the DIY Maker brand to go live before buying the dev kit?
No! Jump in now. DJ said the product will not change. No new version of the EZB will be released. ARC constantly get updates and has since it's conception years ago. As I understand it both comunity brands will use the same hardware and software.

3. I should wait for the split before joining in on discussions in the forum?
No! Join us now. Be part of the family. Download the free ARC control software and start playing. You don't need a EZB right away to play with it and start learning how it works.

4. Solar Power?
EZ Robot does not directly use solar power. Your going to have to collect the sun's rays and use a converter that the solar power device should recommend to store it into a battery in your robot. Once the battery is full you can use it like any other battery. I'm not familiar with how to do any of this but it should be easy to do and fun to make it happen. I think it's very doable. With the proper scripts your robot can monitor the power level of the battery and then move into a sunny place to recharge.

Good luck and please come back soon to let us know how this is going for you. Looking forward to seeing lots of pictures and movies of your build. ;)
#2  
Hi Nixvii, I was the one who started the whole " Go Ez Robot" in the johnny 5 group, I encouraged Titan to get one and a lot of the builders there look up to him.
#3  
Nixvii , there are lots of builders who prefer not to use a wifi cloud setup , and thats great, I was one that started peddling around with the idea a few years ago. There are many Single Board computers out now, One of the ones I have is the Latte Panda, I think I purchased from DF robot for 89 dollars, it is very close to the same foot print as the raspberry pi but it is a tiny bit thicker when a heatsink is added. You can trade a USB connection through Serial TTL instead of wifi and when you have a direct connection to the " brain"
#4  
@Nixvii , You sound like you have lots of asperations, reviewing others projects can sometimes give you ideas. The things that you are shooting for a really big projects and yes they are doable , but tackle one at a time. I am famous for going too big and having to step back because of something I didnt plan for getting in the way. It sounds like you want an outdoor robot, which have their own challanges and rewards.
#5  
Thank you @Dave Schulpius and @jstarne1. The Latte Panda board looks just like what I am looking for. Although I am an experienced programmer. I've never before attempt any mechanical or engineering work. Just as you say @jstarne1 I will start small. I'll get the devkit first and mess around with a small Wall-E type robot and then expand on that. My mind set has always been get it working, optimize, make it look good.
#7  
Dave and Josh gave you some great advice, so I will just add a few things.

The developers kit is a great place to start, but you should be aware of the power requirements. The kit comes with a AA battery adapter, which will run the camera and a couple of servos, but it won't run a lot, and goes through batteries quickly. If you haven't already determined the power requirements of your bot, I would suggest getting a Lipo battery, Charger, and Lipo adapter with your kit to use while you are learning EZ-B even if it is not your final solution.

These are the parts:
https://www.ez-robot.com/Shop/AccessoriesDetails.aspx?prevCat=103&productNumber=41

https://www.ez-robot.com/Shop/AccessoriesDetails.aspx?prevCat=103&productNumber=42

https://www.ez-robot.com/Shop/AccessoriesDetails.aspx?prevCat=103&productNumber=103

As far as programming. Even though you are a dotnet developer, I would start with ARC. You will find that it probably can do most if not all of you want to do with either no programing (configuration of objects) or minimal programming (powerful scripting language).

I you find there are other things you want to do that are not in ARC, it has a dotnet plugin framework where you can add capabilities within ARC.

ARC also has a TCP server and 2 versions of web server built in so that you can send script commands from your own application.

If you are ambitious and want to create everything from scratch, there is a dotnet SDK where you can recreate all of the functionality in your own application.

Finally, if you are super ambitious, the EZ-B communication protocol is published, so you can write your own application completely in any language or platform you want.

The possibilities are endless, although here in the community, 99% of the users work within ARC and a small number write plugins. Even fewer use the SDK or communication protocol, so ARC will be where you get the most community answers.

Alan
#8  
Thanks for the advice @thetechguru. This is turning out to be an expensive hobby in the long run it seems.

I'll check out the ARC before I get the dev kit. I partly want to do the coding myself to breathe some joy back into my craft (I've always loved Robots).

I've bought myself a few robot toys off of Amazon for about $15 dollars each, the ones that dance, walk and sing. I'll experiment a little on them at first to see what I can do with the kit and servos.
#9  
@jstarne1 I live in California in the bay area. I actually plan to do smaller bots. I want to do the Cozmo like thing but actually have it run on its own and not be dependent on a smartphone.

Want I really want is to make companions like how Tori is in Gundam seed. Not super intelligent but enough. I checked out your security bot. Looks amazing! I can already see you put a lot of work into your crafting. You're certainly right. I will have to start small.
#10  
I recommend starting with a toy robot and mod it to your hearts content.
User-inserted image


So you like this little guy?
PRO
Canada
#12  
If you are on a budget you can just start with the IoTiny. https://www.robotshop.com/en/ez-b-iotiny-robot-controller.html

A lot of servos and third party peripherals work and you can get some cheap ones on ebay etc. Probably just want to check in before you buy that someone has tested or if there is an existing plugin.

Unfortunately you don't see a lot of second hand EZ-Robot components out there occasionally someone will sell something on here but very rare.