A Pi bot’s po­ten­tial

We’re not talk­ing about engi­neer­ing an Arnie-shaped T-101: Pi Edi­tion, but don’t let us stop you from do­ing so.

APC Australia - - Feature -

The Rasp­berry Pi was launched six years ago, and since then, it has grown into some­thing amaz­ing. We’ve seen four dif­fer­ent ma­jor ver­sions (Zero, 1, 2 and 3), and a cou­ple of mi­nor ver­sions, most re­cently the pow­er­ful 3 B+ which launched in March.

On­line Pi re­tailer ModMyPi.com was there at the be­gin­ning, and was good enough to lend us some treats for this fea­ture. Founder Ja­cob Marsh of­fers his take on the Pi’s re­mark­able suc­cess. “I didn’t re­alise that the Rasp­berry Pi would grow to what it is now, I don’t think even the Pi Foun­da­tion did. ModMyPi was con­ceived in a univer­sity bed­room. Now we have a global e-shop with more than 2,000 prod­uct lines, a $5.5 mil­lion turnover, seven full-time staff, and a 300 square me­tre ware­house that we’re rapidly out­grow­ing. Long may it con­tinue!”

What makes the Pi so spe­cial is the lim­it­less scope for ex­pan­sion. A tiny gen­eral-pur­pose com­puter that can be con­nected to sen­sors, mo­tors or your cen­tral heat­ing sys­tem, cou­pled with the col­lec­tive imag­i­na­tions of the open- source com­mu­nity, has led to all kinds of won­der­ful phys­i­cal com­put­ing ap­pli­ca­tions. And one of the most won­der­ful is ro­bot­ics.

Nev­er­mind our fan­ci­ful cover il­lus­tra­tion. Any sit­u­a­tion where a com­puter-con­trolled de­vice per­forms a me­chan­i­cal func­tion is a ‘ro­bot’ at heart. Ro­botic ve­hi­cles are par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar with Pi hob­by­ists just now. These might at first ap­pear to be lit­tle more than the ra­dio­con­trolled cars, but they can do much more than scoot around the kitchen ta­ble or liv­ing room.

Hav­ing a tiny Linux ma­chine in­side en­ables all kind of tin­ker­ing. With a few easy-to-con­nect com­po­nents, some open-source li­braries and just a lit­tle bit of Python pro­gram­ming to con­nect ev­ery­thing to­gether, you’re lim­ited only by your imag­i­na­tion. Well, small caveat, you may have to sol­der a few wires. This is daunt­ing at first, but there are plenty of guides on the in­ter­net. In par­tic­u­lar, check out the Pi Foun­da­tion’s di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion Car­rie Anne Philbin giv­ing an ex­cel­lent demon­stra­tion at: youtu.be/P5L4Gl6Q4Xo

A Pi ro­bot can run the same Rasp­bian Linux we all know and love. It can con­nect to wire­less net­works, so you can SSH in and per­form di­ag­nos­tics while it’s on the move. You can even run apt up­grade while it’s driv­ing around.

A Pi-pow­ered ro­bot might also take pic­tures, zoom around your house quot­ing Shake­speare or even take to the skies to ad­mire the city be­low. With the aid of the OpenCV li­brary and a lit­tle bit of im­age pro­cess­ing, we can give our ro­bot com­puter vi­sion, so that it can tar­get and fol­low ob­jects, or even recog­nise ob­jects or peo­ple.

So dig into our guide, and don’t for­get to check out www.modmypi.com for in­spi­ra­tion.

“A Pi-pow­ered ro­bot might take pic­tures, zoom around your house quot­ing Shake­speare or even take to the skies.”

The Dex­ter GoPiGo ro­bot is a pop­u­lar choice for ed­u­ca­tion, and is al­most cer­tainly not bent on world dom­i­na­tion.

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