"affirmative. K-9 2.0, Online And Fully Operational." (well, Almost Fully)

Steve G

United Kingdom
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Hi everyone.

This is the first of two posts talking about the inspiration and features of my home robotics build. In the first post I talk about the inspiration behind the build of K-9 2.0. The second post explains the features and build details.

So, after a year in the making, I am pleased to present a project I've been wanting to do for years, pretty much since the first time I saw the little fella in Doctor Who when Tom Baker (one of my favourites) was playing The Doctor. K-9 was pretty much my all time favourite characters in the show and with that in mind, and with my love of dogs and my love for robots, it was logical that building my own K-9 unit some day was in the stars.

Some of you have already had a brief viewing of him when he gave a Birthday message to the EZ-Robot team, and Donned a moustache for Movember, but now his build is pretty much complete its time to bring him to the showcase. I have included a "How he was made" video at the end of the post.

So, why K-9 2.0?
K-9, because it's a cool name and the clever play on words. I just couldn't change that, and I couldn't call him FiDo (whovians will know what I mean by that). 2.0, well those of you in the know have already noticed my K-9 looks a little different to the one's seen in the show. This is because I wanted to give him a newer, slightly more modern look but still keep the original shape I fell in love with as a child (don't like the new one in the new kids show. Looks too much like a toy to me). I also wanted to have a more personalised look and shy away from building a replica, although I very nearly did. (I hope I haven't offended any K-9 aficionados out there with his new look).

Okay, why now? I had an accident a while ago now resulting in injuring my back and left leg which left me unable to work or do much else for a while. So, looking for something to do to keep my mind and hands busy, and not become a couch potato, I thought "I want to build something". So needing to keep costs as low as possible, I got together a load of material I had from around the home, old R/C tanks, Cardboard, MDF sheets, LED fairy lights, old web cams, and numerous other bits and peace's laying around my home just crying out to be used. First of the blocks was a robot which didn't turn out very well. To heavy for the R/C tank drivetrain.

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Then came cardboard Dalek BOB (Built Out of Boredom). He was a lot more successful, and was a lot of fun to build.

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During BOB's build my mind started going in to overdrive, and that where the K-9 build came in. So after BOB was finished I drew up some plans and made a Cardboard K-9 prototype.

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Again, he was was a lot of fun to build but I wanted bigger and better. At this point I had a lot more mobility so I decided, let's just do it.

My (not so) little robotic pooch nearly turned out very different, and I'm not talking about how he looks. After making the R/C bots I had three strong motors and one last working R/C control and receiver. So I drew up some blueprints, I got my tools together and dusted of the MDF sheets. I was going to make a full size similar dimension R/C K-9 and hack some PIR sensors and audio equipment to install inside of him. I started on the chassis first (as seen in the "making of" video below) just working a couple of hours a day or night, and a few weeks later pretty much had it complete and started to make the body frame. During a not very good day as my back gave out again, I was searching the interweb when I came across a fun, crazy, interesting company's website. I think it was called "EZ-Robot" but I can't be sure(s) (pardon the pun DJ). This changed everything. Microcontroller, servos, face/colour/object recognition and so much more, this was for me, or rather K-9. After spending days going through the website and forum I made a shopping list and placed my order. Due to the pre-order status for orders at the time, this gave me time to crack on with the build and hopefully get most of it done. About 3 weeks after I finished the main part of the build I got that all important email, "Your order has been dispatched".

My goodies arrived a few days later and it was "game on". I started playing around with ARC and my new EZ-B v4 and was well impressed. This lead to a few small changes in K-9's design, but for the better as it turned out. It was about this time I became more active in the forum asking questions I got really stuck with and was amazed with the community members response times and willingness to help. If it wasn't for you guys, K-9 wouldn't be half the robot he is now, so thank you all who took the time to respond and help. No joke, this is the only forum I look at on a daily basis and that I am active in.

Well as I mentioned, the build is pretty much complete now, and everything installed and working. I still have a couple of ideas I would like to implement at some point like adding microphones to his ears, adding a smoke detector in his eye panel and a couple of other things. But for now I'm going to concentrate on ARC and set a lot more things up. I've done a fair bit such as setting up servo positions, sound files, face and speech recognition, but there's much more to explore and still have a couple of teething problems I need to iron out.

The video below is the first of a few to come. It is a slideshow of some of the photos and video clips I took during the build and testing. As I said earlier, I still need to sort out a couple of issues I'm having, and once that's done and everything is hunky-dory, I will put up at least a couple more videos of K-9 in action for you guys.

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In post #2, I have put down a few more details of K-9's features, abilities and build design along with a few things I am planning to do if possible. So, as some of you already know, this is my very first attempt at building a microprocessor controlled robot, with no scripting/coding knowledge or "qualified" woodwork/electrical experience but, even if I do say so myself, I don't think he turned out too badly. But it's not what I think that matters (well perhaps a little bit), it's what you guys think. Well I hope you enjoyed this insight to how K-9 2.0 came to be (and if you kept reading this far, then fair play to you), and I hope you enjoy the video. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions, things you may have done differently, things you do like and things you don't. I'm pleased with the way he turned out and I hope you like him too.

Again, thanks to all of you that helped me along the way, and for those who are just browsing or are new here, I hope K-9 2.0 inspires you in some way with your own robot builds.



Steve G.:)

By — Last update
United Kingdom
#1  
K-9 2.0 features.

Chassis/drivetrain.

The chassis is made from MDF and 2x1 battons which makes a very strong platform. The drivetrain is made from 2x 12v drive motors which came from an old kiddies ride-on car. Very strong with lots of torque. These are wired in to a 2.5 amp L298 H-bridge, but I am upgrading this to a 10 amp motor controller as this is one of the issues, MENTIONED HERE, that I'm having with the final part of the build. The steering is made from wood and has a single un-powered wheel. This turns by a lazy Susan bearing and is powered via a heavy duty servo. The whole chassis is designed to easily separate from the body for maintenance.

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Body.

The body section is made from MDF, 2x1 battons and blue acrylic sheets. I wanted to use the acrylic to give K-9 a bit more of a modern look and also liked the idea of having him in two main colours. I sprayed one side of the acrylic panels with silver paint so they have a shiny metallic blue look when they catch the light, and I didn't want them see through. I did the same with the dorsal panel but used a heat gun to melt it in to a curved shape.

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Head.

The head is made from PVC sheets. It was going to be MDF but it was just to heavy for the servo to lift it. Using PVC also gave me a bit more room to work with. I used the same principle to melt the top of the head in to shape as I did with the acrylic and heat gun. The head contains a JD head for the RGB eyes and camera. I removed the servos and used these for the rotating ears. Another servo is used for K-9's nose which is explained later.

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Neck.

Made using a Small disc of MDF and 4x4 Batton. I made a "push & pull" lever design from the batton for the head to look up and down powered by a HD servo, while the lower part is fixed to another lazy Susan baring and HD servo to look left and right.

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Control panel.

MDF again, with some coloured buttons I found online. These were hollowed out and some clear 8 phase fairy lights inserted. These turn on/off via one servo, while the different phases change via another servo. These have sound effects added via a soundboard and are button, control command() of voice activated. There is a LED battery meter installed and a scrolling dot matrix message display which i had laying around. The control panel can be removed for maintenance access.

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Under chassis lighting.

These were made using some blue 8 phase fairy lights and some clear hose pipe. I fed the lights in to the hose and attached it to the chassis with zip-ties. The power and phase change use the same servos as the control panel, and are button, control command() or voice activated with sound effects.

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Inspection panel/VDU

This is designed to be easily removed for maintenance access. It clips in to place with a magnet and houses a touchscreen tablet PC. This is K-9's VDU, and displays a diagnostic information animation, but is a fully working tablet so can be used for web browsing, playing video ect. This can be easily removed if needed by sliding it out when the panel is removed.

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Tail.

A telescopic aerial and a keyring was used to make the tail. This is connected to a servo and wags left and right. The gaiter is a cars steering rack boot.

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Lights.

Control panel and chassis lighting is, as mentioned, 8 phase fairy lights. The collar and dorsal edge lighting is a length of EL wire and has 3 phases, again controlled by a servo. I was going to edge light the "K" and "9" insignia on the side of his body, but you cannot bend this stuff too much, and it would have looked messy when the light was off, so I decided against it. So I used the access wire I had for his collar.

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Torch/Laser.

Initially I was going to use a laser pointer but didn't see the point of shining a red dot on the wall, and a little dangerous if kids are around and it shines in their eyes. I wanted something useful. I then thought water pistol, but water and electronics, no no no. I did come across a pen size blow torch and initially thought "cool". Then straight away thought "very NOT cool" if kids are around again. So I found the cheapest brightest LED torch I could find and that is what K-9 has.

Using a servo with a linkage it deploys and retracts very smoothly. Using the same servo, the end presses down on to a soft momentary switch when deployed and activates the light. This works great in a dark room when using the camera. This is button, voice, and control command() operated, with a sound effect.

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Ears.

I sacrificed one of my stereo speaker grills to make his ears. Two rubber antennas and some steel wire hold it all together and then painted silver. These then fit to the two servos in the head. These are CC(), voice, button controlled. Some scripts have sound effects, some do not.

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Eyes.

The eyes are the RGB LED panel in JD's head. I have set up several animations of different designs and linked to various Controls.

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Mouth.

Being a Knight Rider fan, I've always liked K.I.T.T's voice box, so I wanted to do something similar for K-9. All I used for this was some sound activated EL wire with the microphone unit located in the body next to a speaker I installed. I measured a design an drilled holes in to a peace of PVC and threaded the wire through.

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Speaker.

I got lucky with the speaker I'm using. It's Bluetooth but has a aux headphone socket, an they both work together. This means that the EZ-B (which I added a headphone socket to) and tablet PC are both jacked in to the speakers aux socket via a 2 to 1 adapter, and my iPhone can connect via Bluetooth without one cancelling the other out. More on the iPhone connection later. I have EZ-B soundboards set up with phrases and sound effects which all go through the speaker clearly.

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Collar.

The collar is a peace of ribbon stuck to a peace of cardboard, and the excess EL wire attached to each side. Underneath is the ultrasonic sensor and a servo for object detection and avoidance. The dog tag is simply a peace of cardboard cut out and some aluminium tape stuck to the front. I thought about doing a spanner, but my craft skills were not up to the challenge that day, so a bone it is.

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EZ-B v4 power.

The v4 I have installed is powered via a 7.4v LiPo battery. The v4 is routed through an inferred power switch relay so it can be turned on or off via a remote control key fob (similar to a car alarm fob).

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ARC project.

Most of what is mentioned above is currently set up for a game controller, speech recognition, control commands, linked to other controls, and are in a personality generator. The personality generator is currently set to tell a random joke, a random fun fact, or to say some other random stuff. His ears, eye animations, lights, head and tail are all connected to various personality commands. Other controls I have set up are auto connect, face / colour / movement recognition, script manager for all movements, speech recognition, joystick control, and the RGB animator. Once I get the couple of bugs I have sorted out, this ARC list will be much longer.


iPhone connection.

The primary feature for K-9 was to have the ability to speak, and when I say speak, I mean to have a conversation. This was very important for me to include this. I did start to use pandorabots a while ago now and was fun to begin with, but being free meant it was unreliable, and still is.

I had a Chatbot app on my iPhone I used for the cardboard K-9 prototype which I had already started training, and comes with its own robotic sounding speech synthesis engine, and an added bonus it uses the iOS speech recognition extremely well, not just with my voice, but with any one of my family and friends. With the exception of pressing the speech to text button and the send button, I could have a very easy conversation with my bot. So this is what I'm using to talk and to have others talk to K-9. Even though I'm training him, he does have his own quirky personality. This where the Bluetooth comes in. The EZ-B can play all the sound effects ect via the speakers aux, and the iPhone still streams audio as well without unplugging the aux. So with this in mind I recorded a load of phrases of the robot voice and imported them to an EZ-B soundboard. I have also made ringtone recordings of people in my iPhone contacts as well as other alert tones so K-9 can now tell me who is calling, texting or emailing me without looking at the phone, or just tell me I have an incoming phone call, text message, email, reminder alert, Callander alert, alarm or voice mail. I will make a video of this to better demonstrate this.

What's next.

Swap out the L298 2.5 amp motor controller for the 10 amp one that I have ordered. Hopefully that will sort out his drive system problems.

I would like to do is add is a smoke detector in his eye panel so if he does detect smoke he can tell me and sound an alarm, maybe even tell me where he detects it.

To get him as fully autonomous as possible. I want to map out the ground level of my house so K-9 can roam around on his own and maybe do security checks.

I would also like to add a small microphone in each of his ears so he can hear and react to which side he hears a sound. I've seen the control for this in ARC and would love to implement this at some point.

I want to get a stronger servo for his head, specifically the vertical servo, as when he lifts his head there is sometimes a lot of buzzing and I really want to eliminate that. Problem is the high torque servos, 25kg and over, are quite expensive.

I'm still trying to find a way of reducing the maximum speed of the drive motors when I use a joystick, which is talked about it this THREAD.

I want to set up some RSS feeds so K-9 can tell me the news, weather, time ect. I have had a play with this, but the only thing with this for me right now is he will have to use a different voice.

I would love to have the ability to use the Chatbot app I'm using now, and tie it in with ARC so I can run scripts and actions when he speaks through the app, like what the pandorabot control can do.

To make him fly, because he is REALLY heavy lol.:P :P

Well that's pretty much it for now. I hope you found some of this interesting, and as I said in post #1, I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

Thanks for reading.

Steve G.
#40  
@Steve... Sweet.... more and more ez robot projects are getting noticed...:)
#41  
I may have missed it in the instructable, but you mentioned adding mountain bike tires to the wheels. I assume you cut them to fit. How did you adhere the tread to the wheels?

Also, what is the total weight of K-9, and how fast does he move with those motors/wheels?

I have a set of power wheels motors and gear boxes (but no wheels) and a set of wheelchair motors with wheels, but missing bolts that hold the wheels together that I would need to source. Haven't decided yet which to use, but getting wheels for the power wheels and running the system on 12 volts instead of 24 is starting to have some appeal.

Alan
#42  
@Steve... Wow! That is a very thorough and cool Instructable. Now I want to build a K9 more than ever! Thanks for taking the time to this. This is extremely helpful to robot builders everywhere. Good job!
United Kingdom
#43  
@Richard.

Thanks buddy. Yeah, the number of EZ Robots are certainly growing in the public domain. "An EZ Robot in every household", You know what, DJ and his team just might pull it off.;)

@Alan.

Do you know what, I proof read that twice and never noticed it, I forgot to add the tyre bit in, opps *sleep* (it's in there now). Anyway, Yes I did cut the tyre down to length and trimmed off the tyre walls. I was going to use adhesive but decided against it and went with simple evenly spaced nuts and bolts. The head of the bolts sit on the base of the tyres in-between the treads so they don't touch the ground and the tyres can be easily replaced if needed. K-9 weighs about (rough guess) 30 to 35KG, and with PWM set to 100 he can get to about 6 MPH/9.5 km, but I have most of his PWM scripts set to 50, so about 2.5 to 3 MPH/ 4.8km. Even at top speed the traction is excellent. Using 12v either on a lead acid or LiPo battery powers the motors great with power in reserve.

Hope that helps, (and thanks for the heads up). Here's some pics for you.:)


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@rgordon.

Thanks for you kind words and pleased you liked the Instructable. I hope it gave you some ideas. Come on my friend, get building. K-9 needs an overseas relative, and I would love to see your approch at building one.:D
#44  
Thanks for the wheel information. If I can score some wheels for my Power Wheels motors/gearboxes I may go that route. I like the compactness of your drive train (although I think I will use differential steering and have a couple of casters trailing as rear wheels instead of a steering servo). My wheel chair motors are 15kg on their own, and take up a huge amount of space, and provide much more power and speed than I need. I think I will save them for another project like a Segway clone.

I was thinking about adding foot pegs and a T-bar handlebar so I could ride the robot while standing, which would require the wheelchair motors, but that was more so that I could claim it was an assistive device and bypass the luggage weight limit if I travel by train. Using the smaller motors, I can keep the overall weight low enough that it isn't an issue.

Great instructable. There are things that I would do differently like replacing the servo activated switches with TIP120 circuits or relays, but more important that you made it work, then that it was done in the most elegant fashion. I am certainly going to take design cues from how you did the neck/head and some ideas from the body build as well.

Alan


Alan
United Kingdom
#45  
@Alan.

Pleased you liked the Instructable. I have to agree with you about the diff steering. It is an easier set up, control and build wise, but I went for the independent steering simply because of the size of the doorways and halls in my house. Having the diff steering would have caused massive overswings from his head and rear when turning in to rooms, thus causing lots of bumps and scrapes (mainly to the walls).

This was my first full robot build and wasn't aware of things like TIP circuits, but thanks to you guys that's something I am looking in to on future projects (I hope Rich hasn't forgot about me), as well as other things I've picked up along the way. Can't wait to see what you come up with Alan.:)
United Kingdom
#46  
UPDATE 2.0/5

Oh no. Who killed the dog?

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Well he's not quite dead, but certainly lifeless when this picture was taken.

So a bit of a major update to share with you guys as K-9 has had a bit of a face lift, or rather a transplant for want of a better description. So I've been a community member for almost a year now and I'm constantly looking through the forum checking out what you guys are up to and how your robot projects are progressing. While doing so, one thing sticks out for me in regards to some of your builds. Wiring. As much as I love tinkering with electronics, there's one thing that always bugs me, which is messy wiring, and K-9 was unfortunately no exception.

After looking at the robots made with the likes of Richard R's and Bob Huston's InMoov's (there must be a ton of wiring in there), as well as Steve S, Mcsdaver, Dave S, and many more of you guys, one thing I noticed is how tidy you guys keep your wiring. And after seeing Tony the ToyMakers really neat work on his Altair EZ:2 build, that was the last straw (in a good way, as it was the kick up the butt I needed), and figured I could improve on what I had done. So I initially set about tidying up all of K-9's wiring (a day or two's work), but ended up ripping out his entire electrical system and started again from scratch (which took a little over 2 weeks instead).

So from a simple re-wiring job to a full out electrical rebuild, K-9's internal's have gone from this...

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to this...

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Yeah it was a lot of extra work, took a lot longer than expected, and cost me a few more beer tokens, but it was worth it now he looks a little tidier than he did.

I was also glad I did this for another reason. It gave me the chance to make a few changes and improvements, a couple of repairs, and the chance to add a few more sensors (so I won't have to make further repairs, hopefully). In the next post (post #52), I'll go through what the new changes are with a few more pictures for you guys to check out.:)

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United Kingdom
#47  
Wow, fantastic job Steve! This now looks like something a Timelord really would build.

Tony
United Kingdom
#48  
@Toymaker.

Lol, thanks Tony. Hopefully I've made the good Doctor proud :P.

As well as thanks for the kind words, I'm also grateful you posted your Ez-b V4 Gear-tray thread. If it wasn't for that, I probably wouldn't have done the re-build for quite some time, so you gave me the motivation I needed.:)
United Kingdom
#49  
Steve, glad the gear-tray idea worked for you. Case in point, I have just needed to get the gear-tray out of the EZ:1 for modifications and it takes less than 15 minutes to completely extract it, and about the same for re-installing it. I meticulously mark/name all cables so it is easy to find where they belong.

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Tony
United Kingdom
#50  
Yep, I did the exact same thing this time around using a little bit of masking tape and a pen to make labels for each wire. Very useful.

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United Kingdom
#51  
UPDATE 2.0/5 cont.

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So, as mentioned in the above post, here's the details of what's new in the metal pooch (well, mostly wooden pooch actually. ;))

MAIN ELECTRICAL SYSTEM

As this was my first what I would call "proper robot", there were things I wasn't quite happy about when I initially finished the build. One thing was the messy wires I mentioned in post #47, which I really wanted to sort out. Another thing was that all the lighting (except for the RGB eye array) were all powered by separate power supplies (AA and AAA batteries), as well as the speaker and "sound to light" sensor for the mouth.

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So after stripping out the electrics, I tidied up the platform, laid all the new peripherals out, and marked then drilled the holes for all the wires to poke through. Then fixed all peripherals down to the platform.

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In regards to peripherals, these were 5v regulators, adjustable step down buck converters, 5v relay bricks, 12v 2 channel remote relay, sound to light sensor, EL light relay, 10 amp motor controller, re-positioned EZ-B v4, and two battery packs for the EZ-B and drive motors. Once everything was fixed down, the wiring up commenced using new silicone coated steel wire which was now colour coded, and reusing the servo extension and jumper cables.

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REPAIRS

Over Christmas K-9 had a little accident when turning in to a doorway. He took the turn too tight and rubbed his side panel up against the door frame with enough force to crack his blue acrylic panel. So I managed to order another sheet, cut it to size and fixed it in place. But to stop this happening again, I added a couple of wooden batons just inside of the acrylic panels to act as reinforcements so the panels wouldn't flex as much should it happen again.

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I also replace K-9's bumpers as the one on the broken panel was trashed when I removed it, and I had enough foam tubing to replace all of the bumpers. But before I replace the new side bumpers, I made an additional secret change to them which is mentioned below in the "Sensors" section (oop's, I gave the secret away now), which would help protect the acrylic panels further.


LIGHTING AND SPEAKER

As mentioned above, all of the lighting were running off their own batteries, so I changed that. Quite simply, I cut the battery compartments off the chassis and control panel lights, ran them through step down buck converters, and then broke through the positive wires and ran them through relays which would be scripted with different flashing patterns in ARC.

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With the EL lighting for the mouth and dorsal edge lighting, I ran them through buck converters which are powered using digital Vcc pins. The dorsal lighting is still servo controlled (servo presses button for different flash modes), and the mouth lighting automatically powers up when the EZ-B does. I also removed he rechargeable battery from the speaker and wired it directly to analog ground and Vcc pins which fires up when the EZ-B does.


SENSORS

Flex sensors.

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So, as mentioned above in the "Repairs" section, I have added two Flex Sensors which are attached in a strategic position inside of the side bumpers which act as a bump sensor. These will be scripted so when a bumper comes in to contact with an object such as a door frame when K-9 is turning in to a room, the bumper/sensor will bend triggering a script which will stop the drive motors, reverse, then steer away from the object, then adjust its course to navigate past the object safely.

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These sensors are easy to set up and run off an ADC port. I wrote a short tutorial here in post #29, explaining how to hook these Flex Sensors up.

Sound sensors.

After some success fitting these sound sensors in to my Victor project, I decided to get some more and fit them in to K-9.

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They are discreetly hidden away inside of the front end of the side bumpers, and are also hooked up to ADC ports. These are linked to the neck "look left/right" servo, so K-9 can look in the direction of the loudest sound signal that's detected. Great for when someone is talking to him, and also useful as a security feature where if a sound is detected, he can do things such as look in the direction of the sound and take photos, for example.

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Light sensor.

Tucked away underneath the left side bumper is a Photosensitive Diode Sensor Module which detects changes in light. So if he was to wonder in to a dark room, the light sensor would detect this and deploy the torch. That's just an example of what I will use this for.

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Ultrasonic "Ping" sensors.

K-9 already had one ping sensor fitted under his neck, but I felt he needed more to compensate for the longest width of the body. So now he has two further ping sensors flush fitted to the left and right front leg panels.

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These will simply be scripted to stop at an object (door frame ect), reverse, and steer away. The neck sensor is now static (ran out of digital ports for the servo) which monitors the length of the head and takes avoidance action if needed.

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I also added one other ping sensor to the back of K-9, fitted inside of the rear bumper.

PIR sensor.

I have also added a passive infrared sensor to the front of K-9's neck which, depending on the time of day, will act as a security monitor. He will automatically power down (lights, servo release ect) at a preset period of time, and only have the PIR running. So when movement is detected, he will power up and take the necessary action. I also found that It's useful power saving option when live testing scripts. Simple to wire up and connected to a digital port.

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4 in 1 sensor.

It had to be done as this looks like a great little sensor, and I had a spare i2c port to use. Not much to say about this, as I'm waiting for it to ship, but shouldn't be long now.


CHASSIS

Only a small change here, but it was needed. The chassis had two large drive wheels and one front steering wheel. And although this setup worked, when K-9 would take a corner a bit fast, his front corners would tend to dip to one side. Also I wasn't happy about all the front end weight resting on one wheel.

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So I added some caster wheels to the two front corners of the chassis, and he moves around a lot more gracefully now, without looking like he's had one to many oil cans for lunch (if you know what I mean).

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POWER SYSTEM

LiPo batteries are out, Nimh battery packs are in. Reasons, well it's not that I dislike LiPo batteries, far from it. They pack a great punch offering a nice amount of current when it's needed. But I have two main reasons why I have made the change. The first reason. My family received some devastating news recently, so robotics took a back seat as you can imagine. So when I got back to it recently (another reason for K-9's makeover, so it could take my mind of things), I plugged my 7.4v and 11.1v LiPo's in to recharge (you see where this is going), yep, they wouldn't charge up and were both as dead as a dodo. As you can imagine, I was pretty (insert bad words here) with this, as the batteries were only a few months old. Pretty much a waste of about £80/$125, that ended up in the trash, all because I wasn't around to charge them up even when I wasn't using them.

The other reason was that I wanted to charge the batteries up while K-9 was still powered on (in a low power, security scan mode), with just the EZ-B checking the PIR sensor. Also with the new charging port I have made, I intend one day to convert this to a docking port, so K-9 can auto dock and self charge which, as you may or may not know, cannot be done with LiPo batteries, unless a cleaver switching circuit is made, which I'm not sure how to go about this anyway.

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In regards to charging and possible future docking, I attached a 6 way plugable terminal block to the inside of the back leg panel and wired it up, with the other end attached to the chargers. So once plugged in, this will recharge the 7.2v EZ-B, 12v drive system, and the tablet PC batteries. Although the Nimh chargers I purchased have a power cut off which kicks in after 4 hours, all three chargers are plugged in to a digital mains countdown timer which I have set to turn off after 2 hours, so there's no danger of overcharging the Nimh battery packs. They are also isolated so I can charge whatever battery is needed, on its own. I may one day make the move to LiFe batterie packs, but I don't know enough about them yet to commit to making a purchase, as they are quite pricey, and they don't seem to have many user reviews on the web.

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VISUAL DISPLAY UNIT

On the control panel that sits in K-9's dorsal panel, I originally had a dot matrix scrolling display, which looked and worked okay, but didn't display any real information. So I have removed it, and replaced it with a blue LCD display that will display live EZ-B and system information, as well as some custom messages.

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Another small change, but a major one as well is the VDU in K-9's inspection panel. Originally I had a cheap'o generic Android tablet, but that's gone now. Generic Android, OUT... Acer W3 with Windows 8, IN. This will be a bit of a game changer for K-9, as this will help towards making him a lot more autonomous and mobile with full ARC access, and will give him the ability to access system files when he is out and about either at a friends house, or a charity event without carting my laptop about as well. Also a slightly bigger screen is a bonus.

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I had to recut the inspection panel to house the new tablet as its a bit bigger, and reposition the hole for the front facing camera, and is designed so the W3 is easily removable by sliding it out from the top of the inner side of the panel.

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I also have a headphone splitter plugged in to K-9's speaker, so now as well as Bluetooth to connect my phone to, and a sound breakout from the EZ-B going to the speaker, the W3 is also jacked in to the same speaker as well, so any music, videos ect can be played through the W3 and heard through a better quality speaker system. And if I connect my iPhone to the W3 via the VCN app I use, I don't need to use my laptop as much to control a full ARC project, especially for using controls such as Pandorabot.


ARC PROJECT

There's not much to mention here at the moment, as I'm rewriting/rebuilding the ARC project to reflect the changes made, but once I've got a few things done, I'll post another update. I've made a start with the mobile interface control, although this might change slightly, but not much. I made the buttons using MS Paint which I was going to use for my Victor project, so they are not as good as they probably could be, but they're different and unique, look good on ARC mobile... and I like them, and it was my first attempt at making custom buttons too. When a button is active, elements of the button turn green, and when stopped, they are as you see them in the picture below, and most buttons work as a latching (push On/push Off) function which saves on screen real estate with not having a On button and an Off button.

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I'M DONE WRITING NOW, ALMOST.

So that's about it for now. K-9's EZ-B is now fully loaded, with every digital port and pin, every analog port and pin, all three i2c ports (well not quite, as I'm waiting for the 4 in 1 sensor to arrive), and the camera port, all in use. The only one that's not, is the UART 0 port which is still empty, but I'm sure I'll find a use for it someday. So I hope you found some of the update interesting. I'll see if I can get around to putting up another video soon for anyone interested.

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Anyway, thanks for reading, and I'd love to hear what you guys think of the changes made, and any suggestions too. Thanks again to everyone that helped me along the way.

Steve.:)
#53  
stunning what electronics is all in the dog.
#54  
Very cool work!
I also found a Windows tablet works better for a robot than an Android tablet.
Full use of ARC, voice control and you can use a wireless mouse and keyboard.
Plus you can use any USB camera and GPS on your robot and still be mobile.
United Kingdom
#55  
@nomad.

Thanks buddy. Yeah, there's not much room left now to add much more, but I think he has everything he needs now anyway. I'm looking forward to getting the 4 in 1 sensor. That should be fun, and a great addition to K-9's sensor array.:)
#56  
where did you get the sounds for the dog.
United Kingdom
#57  
Thanks @mcsdaver. That's nice of you to say.

Yes, I find that Windows is much better than Android too for something like this in relation to what control you ultimately have over a robot, as well as the other things you mentioned such as full voice control and wireless peripherals. Don't get me wrong, the mobile apps are great and I do enjoy using them (especially on an iPhone 6 plus), but having access to system files such as media, network connections for using Pandorabots, and being able to make changes to an ARC project on the fly, does have it's advantages.

Anyway, thanks again for your comments Buddy.
United Kingdom
#58  
@nomad.

Sorry dude, only just read your last post. I got some of the sound effects online, but others I made myself using Audacity, by getting a random sound sample, then changing the pitch, speed, echo ect, and using other editing options until I produced a sound I liked.