The Physical Robots

Fast Facts


1) The robot batteries usually last about 2-3 hours while running the lidar, which is common.

2) The laptops last for a couple hours while under the high load associated with the type of computation typically being run on them.

3) The battery charger is mildly intelligent, it will provide full current when the battery is fully discharged, and when the battery is fully charged, it will provide only enough current to keep it charged. This means you should leave them plugged in when not in use.

4) There should be some extension cords lying around - feel free to take them with you when you're running experiments for easier recharging. Please be sure to bring them back and neatly return them to where they came from!




The robots seem to fit nicely with the laptops on the table in this configuration:


When finished using the robots please store them with the fabric over them as shown here to avoid things spilling on them or dust collecting in places it shouldn't:





There is a well organized power strip on the left side of the table:


Plugging in and charging the laptops in should be self-explanatory, please leave them plugged in when not in use. The robots can be plugged in, and should remain plugged in when not in use using this cable and plugging it into the panel on the right side of the robot shown here:




Attaching the Laptop to Robot


There is velcro on the robot deck:


as well as underneath the robot:


Line these up and then give the laptop a firm rub to make sure the velcro is fully attached. In the end it'll look like this:


This is industrial strength velcro and can be difficult to separate the two sides. It will require you to exert some force to get the laptop off of the robot but try to be careful not to bend the laptop case.


Here is an alternative configuration that keeps the robot a bit lower profile which can be beneficial in tight spaces. Here we're using two sponges and a bookend that has velcro attached to the bottom. The idea is to snugly wedge the laptop in between the bookend and the lidar using the sponges as padding. This can also be done horizontally rather than vertically.






Setting up for experiments

The first step is the attache the laptop to the robot. See the previous explanation.


Once the laptop is attached, you can unplug the robot from the charger.


Then get the usb to serial cable and plug the usb side into the laptop and the serial side into the robot:


I like to plug the usb cable into the back USB port, but there are an additional three ports on the left side of the laptop.


There are no screws to fasten the serial cable, so just make sure it's in there as securely as you can get it. I've never seen it fall out. You may want to try to tuck the extra cable behind the laptop screen or somewhere so that it's out of the way.


Now you can turn the laptop on and log in. Then turn the robot on, then turn the lidar on. The power for the lidar is on its back:


The cable hanging out of the back of the lidar is actually power for the robot arm (not shown here). You can tuck it away somewhere so that it doesn't get in the way.


Robot Panel Explanation

Here is a brief explanation of the lights and buttons on the side panel of the robot. See the manual for a more detailed description...



Working from top to bottom, left to right....


The two yellow leds are for reporting if packets are being received by the base (RX) and transmitted from the base (TX).

The serial port is how the laptop and base communicate.

The two black buttons labelled AUX1 and AUX2 are for disabling power to the various peripheral devices (lidar and arm). Just leave them on (red led illuminated).

The battery led is meant to give you an intuition of how much battery charge remains. It will start green when fully charged and slowly degrade to red when it is near fully discharged.

The reset button is the only way to "reboot" the onboard microcontroller -- It'll also terminate any connections with the laptop while it reboots.

The motors button will enable/disable the motors, there isn't really a reason to touch this.

The on/off switch turns on the base.

The main power charge is where you can plug in and recharge.



Hot-swapping Batteries

The robot batteries are technically hot-swappable. I don't typically do this, I find it easier to simply switch bases by transferring the laptop to the other charged base. But if you feel like it?


The robots are stored in the rear of the robot over the caster wheel.


There is a latch on the side of the robot that will release the door in the back of the robot.


We have three batteries in each base, you can just slide then out and replace them one at a time.


You should use a suction cup to remove the batteries