|Surveyor Robotics Journal|
Tue, 30 Oct 2007
Starting to process orders
We are starting to accept online orders for the SRV-1 Blackfin camera board and radio board combinations at http://surveyor-corporation.stores.yahoo.net/.
Though we will also start to ship complete SRV-1 robots this week, we won't be accepting direct online orders for complete robots for a while, as there is a substantial backlog of existing orders and reservations. Also, we need to set aside some components for SRV-1 upgrades by existing customers. Some resellers are already in the queue for delivery, though we don't know whether any resellers have uncommitted units on order. We will continue to accept robot "reservations", and after we get through the next 2-3 weeks of shipments, we should have a better idea of lead times for new orders.
Questions about availability should be directed by email to Posted Tue, 30 Oct 2007 14:25 | HTML Link | see additional stories ... Thu, 25 Oct 2007
SRV-1 Blackfin at RoboDevelopment Conference this week
Wed, 24 Oct 2007
First photo of SRV-1 mobile robot with Blackfin controller
The first laser pointer brackets arrived yesterday, and were finally able to fully assemble a complete SRV-1 with the new controller. Everything works as expected, though there are a few loose ends - we are still waiting for the rear bracket that holds the antenna, we had to order a different connector for the motor board so that it doesn't short out against the rear bracket, we need to secure the front of the battery pack, and we need a better mechanism for securing the front of the processor/camera. Also, we have not yet started writing the setup documentation.
We did find one small issue - laser pointer reflections are outside the field-of-view of the camera with obstacles closer than 4". There is no easy way to lower the camera, but this could be fixed by raising the laser bracket with standoffs, though we will leave that modification to users. It is worth noting that the laser bracket is machined from delrin, and it provides a fairly substantial area for user customization, e.g. for mounting lights or additional sensors.
Our hope is to start shipping robots to next week. We have some old orders that need to be filled first, and then we will start working our way through the "reservation list". We will also start putting together some upgrade kits for existing SRV-1 users. If you already contacted us to reserve a slot or upgrade and don't hear anything by November 5, please send a reminder email to email@example.com.
Sat, 20 Oct 2007
SRV-1 Blackfin Camera Board configured with stacking connector
SRV-1 Blackfin Camera Board configured with WiFi expansion card. Lantronix Matchport 802.11b/g radio and antenna are installed, though the plastic Matchport cover has been removed for stacking clearance
SRV-1 Blackfin Camera Board with expansion radio board (no radios) - note the sockets for Lantronix Matchport as well as Maxstream XBeePro
Thu, 18 Oct 2007
Production SRV-1 Blackfin boards just arrived !!!
The boards actually came in a bit ahead of schedule. We have starting testing and everything looks good so far.
Here are a couple of photos of a test setup with the board stack. The board on the bottom is the motor controller with a couple of motors and 3 laser pointers attached (though not visible in the photo except for one laser). In the middle of the stack is the radio board with a Matchport 802.11g module - the antenna pigtail is sticking out the side. On top is the SRV-1 Blackfin board with the camera module and an ICEbear JTAG USB cable that we use for board testing and software debug.
Now we have to wait for the brackets that to mount the laser pointers to the front of the SRV-1 and the brackets that mount the power switch / charger plug / 3db antenna to the back of the SRV-1. We expect to have these sometime next week, at which point we should be able to start assembling and shipping complete SRV-1 robots.
Sun, 14 Oct 2007
SRV-1 Blackfin - first firmware snapshot and SRV_protocol update posted
For those who want to take an early look at code, we have posted an SRV-1 Blackfin firmware snapshot at http://www.surveyor.com/blackfin/srv-blackfin-101407.zip. The toolchain to compile this code is Blackfin GNU bfin-elf toolchain 2006R2_RC5 (click on Files tab).
This code snapshot has been tested with SRV1Console, and should also work with pySRV1Console. As noted in the snapshot's README, image capture, JPEG compression, motor controls, and the C interpreter are functional, but image processing and range finder functions have not yet been added. Also, file transfer and flash read/write functions are built in, but not fully connected. Most of the loose ends will be tied up in advance of first robot shipments.
Note that there have been some changes to SRV_protocol - the SRV-1 Blackfin version is found at http://www.surveyor.com/blackfin/SRV_protocol_bf.html. We removed the BASIC interpreter, but beefed up the C interpreter with some pointer operations, support for hex numbers, and relief from DOS ^M. The IR function is being replaced by a laser range function, and there are some minor changes to commands which set the capture resolution. Other commands will be added to support I2C and the second UART. Some protocol changes may require some minor adjustments in SRV-1 support from Microsoft Robotics Studio, Myro and Roborealm, those these aren't significant. However, interfacing via WLAN instead of XBee will require changes to those packages, since the current interfaces are based on COM ports instead of IP addresses. We will focus on compatibility issues once the initial release of firmware is frozen.
Check the SRV-1 Blackfin Camera Board page for updates to code, specs, and protocols. Questions about the code should be posted to the Surveyor Robotics Forum or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thu, 11 Oct 2007
Status update, including Lantronix Wiport WLAN support for SRV-1 Blackfin camera board
We continue to make good progress. The motor control board prototypes worked well, so production quantities of the motor and radio boards have been ordered and should be here in a week. We have a large portion of the SRV_protocol functions already implemented in firmware, and should wrap up the rest in a week. Some of the existing SRV-1 software support (e.g. MSRS, Roborealm, Myro, etc) will require minor modification to support the WLAN TCP connections in addition to COM port connections, though SRV1Console and pySRV1Console already support TCP connections.
One quick note on the firmware - the initial boards will ship with the u-boot loader and SRV_protocol support built with the GNU bfin-elf toolchain, similar to the way our ARM7 code was structured. There will be a working version of Linux as well for download. However, we haven't yet decided whether there is a need to support SRV_protocol in Linux, as it looks like we will be able to embed a full Python runtime with a reasonable set of libraries in the Linux image. Also, we will eventually be porting the Ch C/C++ interpreter, so we expect to support be some very nice embedded scripting options, adding some SRV-1 function libraries for these languages.
Other news - due to a number of requests from existing SRV-1 users who purchased Lantronix Wiport expansion boards, we have added Wiport WLAN support for the Blackfin. The layout for this board is now found on the SRV-1 Blackfin info page. The Wiport Radio Module is functionally equivalent to the Matchport Radio Module, except that it doesn't support headers for XBee, as the XBee and Wiport headers interfere. Existing SRV-1 users who plan to upgrade to the Blackfin controller will need to specify whether they want Matchport/XBee or Wiport radio support.
We still expect to make first shipments of SRV-1's with Blackfin in about two weeks, assuming the processor cards arrive as scheduled. There is a already a substantial backlog of orders and reservations, but we will try to keep everyone updated on expected ship dates once we actually begin shipments. If you are planning to order but haven't submitted an order request, you should probably do this sooner rather than later - send an email to email@example.com