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Asked — Edited

Pc With Embedded Ezb?

It might be because it is really early, but another thread got me thinking (fantasizing actually) about something... Since PCs are getting smaller and cheaper all the time, how feasible would it be for EZ Robot to develop a mini itx type PC/Pi with an embedded EZB in it? An all in one solution kind of deal... Would it be easy to develop? How about cost?

There could be more IO ports and more power to run peripherals.... Yeah, I know... Dream on right? But robotics are moving towards the PC anyway, right?... I could really see something like this being used for David's Rafiki, inMoovs and other large indoor/out door robots that would otherwise need multiple ezbs and a computer on board anyway.... Ok, cost might be too high and with a possible USB version of the EZB it may be moot.... Just dreaming anyway LOL

#2  
Hi Richard and Steve,

I still say a "PLUG IN EZB" is the easy way to go. This way a mini computer of your choice plugs in (usb) and allows as much or as little power as you want. I had mentioned a "piggy back" idea a while ago. This way you add and maybe daisy chain what ever additions you want. I had also thought about an I/O hub for more communications.
This way no big re-design / tooling costs. just plug in and add as you go.
Anyway there is my two cents to the discussion.

Ron R
United Kingdom
#3  
Yeah, I'm really keen on the USB idea, and really looking forward to the v5's release if indeed it will have USB connectivity. But I still like Richards idea as an all in one unit, and more ports.
#4  
Yeah, it's a nice wish. I also agree, a small all in one will be the future. I think design / manufacturing costs right now would be somewhat high. The way things are going, in a few years someone will have a computer on one chip.. LOL.. and sell them for $20. 00. We already can get a computer for $100.
(EZB v6 or v7 ?)

Ron R
#5  
Richard, Did you see the CHIP ? $9.00 usd. I didn't watch the whole youtube video on the unboxing and running, but I have a feeling it may be the answer to what you are proposing. I was joking about a computer on a chip but, here is something almost there, and the price is right.

Ron R
#6  
Personally, I prefer separate entities. Even if the price for such a thing comes way down, there is still the maintenance aspect. Blow a part of the embedded EZB-X and you have to replace the whole thing. That means reinstalling all the software on the computer part as well. Not too bad if you have an up-to-the-moment backup of everything on it, but who has that? You would likely have to reinstall many files piecemeal. We all know what a hassle that can be. Same for the other way around. Sure, the PC card may not have many plugs but now you have to unplug everything on the EZB as well when all you wanted to do was replace the computer part.

Now, a premium EZB with more ports, audio output, and USB3 (Still want the WiFi too) I could go for. A better way to hold it in the power base would be good as well.
#7  
I think a USB attached EZ-B would be awesome. I think an on-board one would be cool. I like options for different things. In all honesty, most people are putting atom based tablets onboard their robots if they are using an onboard computer. It doesn't seem like it would be hard to build an onboard communications channel between an atom based board and an EZ-B and place them on the same board. It would be cool to include some other features also like touch screen type headers. I do think it would be really cool if both of these ideas merged into an EZ-B that could be plugged into a EZ-B branded Atom computer that would use a USB as this communications channel. This becomes the best of both options.

An easy to replace wifi module that would allow you to then use USB instead of wifi would be cool also. I am sure that there are reasons that this would be difficult, but that would be really cool and kind of solve everything.
PRO
USA
#8  
The EZB/Wifi is a love and hate relationship.

When the kids play with EZB they play in the living room (wifi router), so not a big issue.

When i try to demo something in my office, i start to have wifi issues,

The best connections i got so far was with the original cable router which i think they are tuned to max the signal outside of the standards (is a guess) but feature limited (VPN Passthrough and other NAT features).

also there are too many wifi networks near by me, right know i've found at least +30 ssids, and most of them are strong, alternating the channels.

I don't have issues with the laptops, recent androids but i have with ipad 2 and iphones 5 and EZB.

Something with USB, would work as plan B, but is a different concept.
#9  
Great comments everyone... I realize that the most likely scenario will be an usb enable ezb of some sort... I was thinking about the Pi as well... Nice little computer but IO sucks... So slapping an ezb on a raspberry Pi type computer would be an awesome match... The ezb has the IO and the PI has the computer inputs with multiple USB ports, microphone/speaker, video etc... I do have an ACER w3 but as you all know it has only one mini usb port so it is a little limiting when it comes to adding computer peripherals...

Anyway I am stoked for a usb version of the EZB4....:)
#13  
I'll throw my two cents in. I think USB connectivity should be the priority. There are hundreds (well, dozens) of PC vendors, and the PCs are getting smaller, cheaper, and faster every year. Just a year ago, the only decent cheap option was the W3. It certainly works, but we recently had a thread pointing to over a dozen small form factor low voltage PCs, and Intel just released a second generation of their PC on a stick that is reportedly significantly better than last year's. A small business like EZ-Robot trying to stay current in that environment could bankrupt them. Better to stick to their core competetency and improve the integration points and stability (for instance, maybe add current leveling caps to better handle inrush current from many servos).

Alan
#14  
I still believe a "stackable" ( I hate to use the arduino word) concept should come into play. This allows a sound basic platform with an ability to add communication, additional I/O, and other hardware including a mini computer. This way if something new comes out stack it into the i2c or maybe a usb port. No need to do a total re-design to the basic EZB concept.

Ron R
#15  
I so would welcome a USB port on the ezb. When in AP mode its so annoying having to manually point and click to connect EZB in the network window each time I boot the laptop, then to chose either the pc itself or the EZB to the wifi (my router) connection.

Also would like to see en external audio connector along with the internal one, and maybe a better power connector to the base unit.

Talking about smaller pc platforms, how about a computer/windows environment that doesn't take several minutes to boot up. kinda kills the excitement of a robot with an on-board computer that can't do anything until the computer is done booting and loading up, several minutes later after applying power to everything.
How fast does the Acer W3 boot ? (w3-810 model?)
#16  
@Robohappy, my VOYO windows computer ($100 but needs a screen, keyboard and mouse, although it will run headless so it can be remote controlled) boots in 8 seconds. The W3 is a good bit longer. But I always sleep mine rather than powering it down, so it only takes 10 or 15 seconds to come up.

Alan
#17  
Well looks like we are going to get our wish for USB connectivity with the EZB4 1/2 (if I understand the new Comm expansion configuration control correctly)
User-inserted image

:)
#18  
@RoboHappy

Quote:

kinda kills the excitement of a robot with an on-board computer that can't do anything until the computer is done booting and loading up, several minutes later after applying power to everything.

Wouldn't that also apply to your PC that you are currently using for your robot projects? Unless you leave it on all the time, the same "wait for boot and load ARC project" applies to your laptop or desktop too...

@Alan... I am looking at the VOYO or something similar.... After using it for a bit would you still recommend it?
#19  
A female header on the the bottom of the EZB with a raw audio out , usb (possible micro) and what ever else that could be thought of would be nice. The power base could carry the needed connectors for the 1/8 audio jack, larger usb port, grove connectors etc. or an ability for plugging in an expansion board. Just plug in the EZB and the connections are made. A breakout cable could also be offered to allow baseless or caseless EZB use.

Two cents more.

Ron R
#20  
@Richard R. I have had one issue with the VOYO that is a little scary since it is a LiPO battery. I had been running it unplugged, on its own battery power for a while. When I plugged it in to charge, while still powered on, it got very hot, and shut down. When rebooting, it kept going to a bootloader screen (looked like a Linux variant instead of windows). I let it cool down, then plugged it in without powering it up and the battery charged and everything was fine.

This has occurred twice, and both times it was when I applied power after the battery was low, but while it was running. If I boot it while plugged in it seems fine, and if I run it on battery it seems fine. The review I read that led me to order it indicated it would not charge while operating. I have not seen that, but there is clearly something squirrely with the charging circuitry.

If you use it supervised it is probably fine. I would not leave it operating and plugged into external power unsupervised though.

Alan
#21  
@Alan... thanks for that.... Here's hoping it will stop happening