"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.
United Kingdom
#2  
Nice work. I can't say I read what you wrote but watched the video (I felt lazy).

My guess is a certain CEO will love this (as for me, I've never even watched Dr Who... I know, I'm a disgrace).
#3  
Very impressive build. I am going to be borrowing a lot of your ideas for my Steampunk K9. You have solved a lot of the problems I have been thinking about.

Alan
#4  
*eek*...


Sir, you have TOOOOO much time on your hands! This is awesome! I really like the lighting effects. Brings out FiDo's futuristic side so much more!
#5  
Totally awesome, fantastically designed and built project.
I love fabricated projects!
Looking forward to more videos.
Steve S
#6  
Very nice! What fun. I would really love t build a K9 someday soon. Thanks for the inspiration. I love your imaginative solutions to hard to control components. You make it look simple. Thanks for the sweet presentation of your little friend.
United Kingdom
#7  
@Rich.

Yeah there is a fair bit to read. I got a little carried away. Anyway I'm really pleased you like K-9 and the video too.:)

@thetechguru.

Borrow away dude. I really can't wait to see your steampunk K-9 project. That sounds like it's going to be very cool indeed. I'm glad you liked my lil 4 legged, er, 3 wheeled friend.:P

@technopro.

Way to much time on my hands? My friend, you have NO idea lol. A little more than I wanted that's for sure. Anyway thanks for your kind words. I'm really glad you like "K-9" (FiDo, please! I'm glad the Doctor Who people didn't go with that name in the end *eyeroll*.) yeah, the dorsal edge lighting gives him a little bit of the TRON look don't you think?;)

@Steve S.

Thank you for you kind words also. I love robots, but like you, it's the "built from scratch" ones I love the most. I'm pleased you like him. :D
United Kingdom
#8  
@Dave.Schulpius.

Your more than welcome, and I'm glad you like him (and the video). I really hope you do build your own K-9 unit someday. We need more of them in the world. :)
#9  
Congrats @SteveG... seriously good work... It's fun isn't it....?:)
United Kingdom
#10  
@Richard.

Apart from the pulling out of hair, a few drops of spilt blood, and a few swearing sessions when things didn't go quite right, you know what...

IT REALLY WAS GREAT FUN. :D:D

So the Rookie did ok then? Im truly pleased you like him and thanks for the congrats. :)
#11  
Dude... I am no one special... I have just been at it longer... To be honest your work on this is way better than anything I have done in the last year or so.... I need to put more effort into my projects, that's for sure....:)
United Kingdom
#12  
Wow @Steve G that is a great build and an inspiration to us all. i have my own K9, that is currently undergoing "glyph" training, mine is only a hacked toy and nowhere near as complex as yours, but we all have to start somewhere. Thanks for sharing :-)
United Kingdom
#13  
@mgodsell1973.

No problem and thanks for the compliments. The glyph recognition you mentioned is actually on one of my to do lists. I've read some of your threads in the forum with intrest. I'd love to see what you have done with your K-9 project. :)
United Kingdom
#14  
I will be putting a showcase up, once i have finished the script. I dont have a lot of spare time to spend on him with work and family commitments. Also i am new to programming,but i am making progress all the time so fingers crossed it won't be long now.
Hope to have it sorted for Christmas, as santa is bringing me a RAD robot for my next project:)
United Kingdom
#15  
@mgodsell1973.

Excellent. I look forward to it. :D
#16  
I love K-9 (who doesn't), but your build is fantastic...
United Kingdom
#17  
UPDATE 2.0/1
===========

@Bret.tallent.

Yeah, there is not many of my family and friends that doesn't like K-9, even the non Dr Who fans. Anyway thanks for the compliments about my lil robotic pooch and I'm glad you like him.:)

So on with the update. I have started a new ARC project for K-9 in an attempt to create a little more real estate on my ARC windows, streamline the scripts I have and to add these in to a Pandorabot I have been working on, adding new sound effects, adding the ability to control K-9 with my iPhone, but mainly to give him a new voice. Most of this update revolves around using the Pandorabots interface.

Motor controller.
==============

So after having a few issues with K-9's drive system I have ordered and received a new motor controller. This is a 10 amp controller with a peak rate of 30 amps. It is partially installed but I'm just waiting for the arrival of a 5v regulator which should be with me soon, then it's all systems go.

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Pandorabot control.
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I always wanted to use the Pandorabot interface control for my K-9 2.0 project, but I had some difficulty with speech recognition (still needs a lot more PC voice training) but also with the text input field which kept freezing as mentioned in this thread. So I did away with the control and used an iOS Chatbot app with its own voice synthesiser which I mentioned in post #1 and #2. This meant I needed to make a bunch of sound files of phrases he would speak to use with scripts and actions, as using "SayEZB()" would have meant he would have 2 voices.

A few days ago I had another play around with the Pandorabot control and it was working great with no freezing issues. (@DJ Sures. Did you have a little tinker with this? It works beautifully now:) ). This meant that I could now use the Cepstral voice that I had purchased a while ago for this project, and do away with the voice sample soundboard. I am currently going through my Pandorabots AIML brain files and adding EZ-Scripts to some of the responses, which so far are working great. Now K-9 can use SayEZB() scripts, will have the ability to read RSS feeds and much much more, all using one voice.

Speech recognition.
================

So, now I'm using the pandorabot control with scripts in the responses, I am doing away with the speech recognition control as I no longer need it. But as I mentioned above speech recognition itself is still an issue. I have a fairly decent laptop and use a pretty good microphone headset, but it still needs a lot of training as accuracy is about 60% compared to my iPhones speech to text which is about 98% accurate. So I looked in to a way to use my iPhone and came up with a solution.

I found two apps in the App Store which are both remote mouse apps to control a PC with an iPhone. Both apps are very good, have quick response times, and have a lot of neat features, but both have one disadvantage each. More on that later. The first app called "remoteMouse" is quite simply a track pad and left/right buttons. It also uses the iPhone keyboard to type directly on to a PC which is done almost instantly. What ever you type shows on the iPhone screen and is instantly sent to the PC. But the added bonus is I can press the microphone key on the keyboard and use the iPhone's speech recognition to speak type directly to a text input field anywhere on the PC. So now all I do is remotely move the pointer on the PC screen to the Pandorabot text input field, and use the iPhone speech recognition to say what I want. Press "return" on the iPhone and the text input is parsed through the pandora control, the bots response comes back, and when the bots response has finished the cursor flashes automatically and I press the mic button again and continue the conversation. Result... 98% speech rec accuracy that anyone can use with minimal use of pressing keys. Open speech rec, send speech rec. Two key presses is all it takes. With this app you can also use any other control on ARC and any other PC function. The first photo below is a screen grab from my iPhone's screen showing the first app in use. Another reason why I am not using a voice recognition control is that you need a text input field for this to work like the pandora control has. As I mentioned before the only disadvantage to this app is that you have to be able to see the PC's screen to see where the mouse pointer is. That's where the other app comes in.

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ARC mobile for iPhone.
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In my first ARC project, controlling K-9 manually was done by a joystick control. In the new project again I'm doing things a little different. The official EZ-Robot mobile iOS application is not available just yet, so in the mean time I have found a temporary solution which uses the second app I mentioned. This one is called "JumiOne" and again has all the bells and whistles to remotely control your PC with an iPhone (or android phone) but with on advantage over the other app. This one actually mirrors your PC screen on to your iPhone screen, meaning everything you see on your PC's screen is also seen on your iPhone screen.

This screen mirror option now has a great use to go with my project. In a separate ARC project window I have created a mobile control for drive and head movements, as well as a few other operations. Now I simply pair my iPhone to my laptop, open my ARC project (remotely or directly), switch to the mobile control window, and now I can control K-9 straight from my iPhone. The pictures below is another iPhone screen grab showing the mobile control. I can also pinch to zoom the iPhone screen to make sections of the mobile control larger if needed. I mentioned that both apps have a down side. With this app, it's the fact that, unlike the "remoteMouse" app, the remote keyboard does not yet support voice recognition as when I tried it, it only recognised the first letter of the first word spoken. It's a real shame actually as that would make this app perfect (at least until EZ mobile iOS is released that is;) ) as I could use the mobile control and voice recognition for the Pandorabot interface control all from the one app.

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These are not perfect solutions but they do work really well, and I'm so pleased I can use my iPhone's speech recognition with ARC now. (I should mention again that using this option won't work on a voice recognition control as it needs a text input field). So that's it for this update for now. I'm currently waiting on a new video camera to arrive so as soon as it does I will get on with making some more videos for you guys. In the mean time, I hope this update has given you a few ideas for your projects and I just want to say again to everyone who has replied in this thread, thank you for your kind words and compliments.

Steve G. :)
#18  
@Steve G. that's some great app grabbing you've done. I might give this a go on an iPad and the Roomba. Adding conversation to a bot adds a lot to its entertainment and appeal value.
#19  
@Steve G,

I haven't tried it yet, and my trial will be on Android not iPhone, but while looking for a wireless microphone, I came across an app called Pocket Microphone available for both iPhone and Android that theoretically would allow you to use EZ-B speech reco and not just PandoraBots.

Vendor is "senstic" if that helps you find it in the app store.

Alan
United Kingdom
#20  
@Robot-Doc.

Yeah they are great apps and completely agree with you about adding conversation for great entertainment value. My friends and family love interacting with K-9 this way. I am keeping the first project I made contains the old voice as the pandorabot platform can be a little flakey at times, so this will be a good back up. And if people who know K-9 say "Why has he got a different voice today?", I can say he has got a cold and is feeling a bit "ruff". (Sorry. I couldn't resist). :D

@thetechguru.

Thanks for the info Alan. Funnily enough, I did try the pocket mic a while back when I was looking to improve the speech recognition, along with another app called pocket audio, before I bought my headset mic. Although they did work ok I did have a couple of issues. I found that the pocket mic app kept crashing on me (may have done a bug fix in an update by now).

The second thing was that even though the iPhone acted as a very good mic, everything was still parsed through Windows SAPI so recognition was still quite poor. Using the apps I mentioned in my other post, they use the iPhone's on-board speech recognition (which I believe I supplied by Nuance, same people who do Dragon Natual speech) and recognition is so much better than SAPI, and is not limited to a users speech profile. But the pocket mic app is still a viable option for using the speech recognition control in ARC.:)
#21  
Yeah, iPhone recognition is Nuance. I wish Dragon provided a SAPI interface. Back in their early days, they did, but not since version 8 I think.

They are the undisputed leaders in speech recognition. I work with their commercial division for my employer's voice self service, and they do some pretty incredible stuff. When I put out an RFP to upgrade our system, 8 of the 10 companies that responded use Nuance technology in their solution, and we went with Nuance directly because they had the best overall solution.

Alan
#22  
The Dr. would be proud of your work!
Very cool K-9.
United Kingdom
#23  
@mcsdaver.

Very kind of you to say. Thank you very much. :)
#24  
Speech recognition adds so much fun to using a robot.
I have my mic on the whole time I am programming or using my robot.
United Kingdom
#25  
UPDATE 2.0/2
===========

Here's another update explaining what's new with K-9, and I'm pleased to say this update contains a couple of videos for your viewing pleasure.

Steering

I have added a small script to K-9's steering servo so now when he turns left or right, his head turns in the same direction. This reduces any over-swing when turning and he can also see where he is turning in to now. And it looks good too.:P

iPhone Control Update.

In the last update I mentioned that I was using two VCN remote PC apps, at least until the ARC iOS app is released, to control K-9 but one app didn't have a screen mirror function, and the other didn't have voice recognition. Well I came across another iOS app called iTeleport which, although a bit expensive for an app (£19 GBP), it combines the features of both apps. Now I have an ARC window with a mobile interface and a Pandorabot control as my main interface. The app uses the iPhone voice recognition extremely well and works great with the Pandorabot control, and changing the settings on my laptop to have the left mouse button engage in single click instead of double click mode, makes using the mobile interface really easy using the iPhone screen. And an added bonus it works over a cellular network as well as WiFi, so I can control K-9 as well as use the EZ-B camera and watch it on my iPhone for home security when I'm out. Below are some screen grabs off my iPhone showing the ARC mobile control.

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I'm still waiting for a second video camera to arrive (First one was lost in the mail, apparently), so when it does finally arrive I will put up another video showing the iPhone remote control app in action. But for now, the video below shows K-9 being controlled by a joypad and a headset microphone with a back up speech recognition control, with multiple commands such as,

"Move forwards" "Go forwards"

" Go backwards" "Reverse"

"Go left" "Turn left"

you get the idea.

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My memory isn't what it was (to much beer me thinks :P) so I forget commands I've programmed so having multiple commands helps towards better interaction. I put together the video to give you some idea of what my Pandorabot control does.



Voice recognition.

@Mcsdaver mentioned about using voice recognition, and the fact that it adds so much to a robot build, and I whole heartedly agree. As I mentioned in post #18, I am not using a permanent speech recognition control, so I have created a few scripts and inserted the control commands for them in to my Pandorabots brain files. Well, after a couple of weeks of using this, I'm pleased to say it works really well and I am having great success with it. As well as having dynamic conversations with K-9 twitching his ears or wagging his tail with responses, he now also tells me live news and weather updates via RSS feeds (thanks to d.cochran, Rich and Richard R for all your help with that :)), as well as simple commands such as, "Move forward" "Turn Right" "Deploy Torch" ect, just like what the voice recognition control would do, and all of K-9's responses are spoken through the EZ-B breakout speaker.

One thing I will say is that the Pandorabot control can, at times, be a little sluggish due to pandorabots busy servers, so I always keep a joystick, my iPhone or the remote On/Off power fob to hand to take over or kill drive movements that are slow to respond. A good thing about Pandorabots AIML is the use of wild cards ( * ) in the responses which helps with SAPI voice recognition mis hearing words, for example you ask

"Robot. Can you move forwards please?"

and the speech recognition hears

"Rabbit. Can who move forwards please?"

and get the wrong response. Used carefully, as long as you have the key words "move forwards", you can say,

"(Whatever) (whatever) move forwards (whatever)?"

and you will get the correct response, and a useful way around SAPI voice recognition accuracy. Important if you are controlling robot movements using the Pandorabot control with long commands.

From "Robot. Can you get me a beer from the fridge please."

to " * get me a beer * "

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All of my Pandorabots brain files have random responses for every question asked by a user, a lot of work, but it's worth it, as it does give K-9 a very unique personality. So before my other video camera arrives, the video below is a short interview with K-9 using a Pandorabot control with what is mentioned above, along with the headset mic and some ControlCommand() scripts added to K-9's responses. A bit of fun, but a good demonstration.

NOTE!

There are a couple of edits in this video to cut out a couple of long pauses and the occasional speech recognition error, but 95% is as it was filmed.



It's Christmas :D

And finally, for a bit more fun, here is my entry for "The Holiday Robot Contest". Some of you have already seen it on the contest thread, but for those of you that haven't, here it is. Enjoy :).



I started doing his head movements and lights in a long script control, but then decided to use the soundboard editor which was great fun to use. It is K-9's first Christmas so you will see him looking at his little Carol book to remember the words while he sings :P. The transporter effect I got from a special effects editor app from the guys at Bad Robot, and I was looking for a reason to use it. And best of all, he left me a lovely Christmas Present too.

That's it for this update. I hope you enjoyed the videos. There are more to come soon.

Steve G. :):):)
#26  
Steve G,
Just fantastic!
I like how K9 leads with his head direction, many great features.
That is an awesome big K9. I loved seeing him go through the doorways and navigating around.
Thanks for sharing. Christmas video is great.
The side panel screen adds a lot to his look.
Steve S
United Kingdom
#27  
@Steve S.

Thanks for your kind words and glad you enjoyed the videos.

I must admit the head turning while he steers was an after thought. After the initial test run I wanted to know which way the front wheel was facing and was going to hook up K-9's ear servos to point to the turning direction. But I went with the head idea instead to reduce overswing, and after testing it, it just looked... well, natural (for want of a better word).:)
United Kingdom
#29  
:):) Thanks @EEGbiofeedback. Glad you like him.
United Kingdom
#30  
UPDATE 2.0/3
===========

Time for another short update to let you what's going on with K-9, and I also have a couple more videos for you to watch.

VCN Remote iPhone App Video.

I have finally managed to make the video I said I was going to put up demonstrating the VCN iPhone app I have which I currently use to control K-9. I use one of the ARC windows which has a mobile interface, Pandorabot control and connection control. No need to say anything else as the video says it all. Enjoy.



Remote Control Power Switch.

I have installed a new two channel remote control relay switch to replace the single channel one. This now powers On/Off the EZ-B and my new 10a motor controller. It was Richard who suggested using a two channel controller (thanks again dude :)) as the new motor controller had a nasty habit of making K-9 take off when I applied power to it before the EZ-B was connected. The remote has now taken care of this so all I do now is press button "A" on the remote fob to power On the EZ-B, and when connection established, an init script starts to set the PWM to zero, then I press button "B" to power up the H-bridge. And I press the same buttons again to power Off. Works like a charm.

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Smoke Detection Sensor.

K-9 is now a mobile smoke detector :D. Again I have to say a BIG thanks to Rich and Richard for all their help (and patients) helping me to get this working. It's the first time I have used an ADC port and analog sensor, and now I have I'm looking to add more now.;)

Anyway, the sensor has two scripts and sits idle with an ADC value of about 50, so when smoke or gas is detected and the value hits 70 or more the first script runs and K-9 will tell me he has detected smoke. And when it hits 100 or more, the second script takes over then K-9 starts to panic and warns me again. The scripts I ended up with need a bit of cleaning up, but at the moment they work ok. Check out the short video.



Well that's it for now. I hope you enjoyed the videos, and if you have any ideas on what other 3.3v or 5v ADC sensors I could add that you may like to see or could be useful, I would love to hear your ideas.

Steve.:)
#31  
steve G

thats very usefull.
United Kingdom
#32  
What in particular was useful to you nomad? *confused* Did you mean the smoke/gas sensor?
#33  
steve G

yes and the dog can go in avery room,really safe.
is there also a sensor for C0 ,
United Kingdom
#34  
Yes the same sensor can detect smoke, liquefied petroleum gas, propane, hydrogen, natural gas CO2 and a few others. Pretty neat little sensor.:)
#35  
Steve G,
Your work is awesome.
I especially like the PC control with IPhone voice commands. IPhone has great voice recognition.
K-9 is even smarter now, great 2 way interaction.
Thanks for sharing.
United Kingdom
#36  
@Steve S.

Thanks for your kind words, and your welcome. Always happy to share and hopefully give other bot builders ideas they can use :). I'm eagerly awaiting the iOS app release, but for now the iPhone control I use is a great workaround. And without sounding like an iPhone groupie, the iOS voice recognition accuracy really is second to none, and allows almost anyone to communicate with K-9 without having to train everyone's voice profiles.
United Kingdom
#37  
UPDATE 2.0/4.

Hey guys.

Just a little update to say that K-9 is now featured on Instructables. There's a few brief descriptions of the build process, some videos (which you have probably watched already) and loads more new pictures that I took during the build. I was sure to "big up" EZ-Robot (if that's the correct street speak), with lots of mentions, lots of links, logos and product descriptions. Watch them sales sore, lol ;).

Anyway check it out if you like, and let me know what you think.

http://m.instructables.com/id/K-9-20-WiFi-controlled-and-autonomous-robot-dog/

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#38  
stunning dog,sounds great, works great
United Kingdom
#39  
Thanks nomad. I hoped you liked the Instructable.

I forgot to mention, one of K-9's projects (which is not on the cloud due to size) is loaded up with a music library that streams music through my home audio system, so now he acts as a voice activated media player. It was easy enough to set up, but it got a bit tedious writing commands for a few hundred tracks, but worth it in the end. I'm working on getting him to play videos through my big screen too using voice recognition but haven't figured it out yet as K-9 has taken a back seat while I'm working on "Project Vic".
#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.