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What is the best hardware interface system for a new robot project?

asked 2014-07-06 13:02:32 -0500

JWest gravatar image

I am developing an educational robot program at a community college using ROS as the software platform and am looking for the best hardware interface for my design. I need something that is easy to implement so that students can add/remove functionality with minimal software implications. My robots will contain laptop computers with ethernet, usb and bluetooth capabilities.

So far I am looking at the RoNex as a possibility, but would like some feedback if this is the best approach? I have also looked at simply buying USB GPIO modules, but I want to keep the custom software to a minimum so simple integration with ROS would be a great feature. We will be interfacing all kinds of analog and digital sensors, encoders, cameras and such.

If anyone has experience in this area, advise would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, Jonathan West Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute

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answered 2014-07-06 22:10:28 -0500

I´d recommend using an Arduino for hardware interfacing, as this appears to be the platform that currently has by far the biggest user community and makes basic interfacing very easy (and easily google-able if something does not work). Interfacing with ROS can be done using rosserial_arduino or ros_arduino_bridge.

Don´t want to disparage the use of RoNex, which looks like a very capable approach, but it´s use of EtherCAT suggests that is meant for more involved (and expensive) applications.

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Just to add my 2 cents, regarding Arduino: from a student POV, it is great, because you can learn how sensors work (digital are either up or down, analog ranging from 0 to 1023), voltage divider, and all that good stuff.

ccapriotti gravatar image ccapriotti  ( 2014-07-07 10:15:06 -0500 )edit

Thanks for the comments, Ok, I like the idea of the cheaper and more accessible Arduinos. In my application, I will have a base rover platform with the laptop, batteries, and motor control. The students will design and build "experiments" or additional components to add to the base platform. Will ROS be able to effectively work with several (perhaps 6 or 7) arduinos all connected through a USB hub? If so, then this is probably the way I will go since each student's project can have its own arduino and can be a stand-alone, testable (and affordable) subsystem.

JWest gravatar image JWest  ( 2014-07-07 11:20:16 -0500 )edit

Unless there is a ROS limitation to the number of serial ports to be connected, I do not foresee any issues. Programming the Arduinos will be simpler, and your students will be able to focus on learning programming, physical interface and electronic, and ROS will be in the BG, overseeing all.

ccapriotti gravatar image ccapriotti  ( 2014-07-07 11:25:10 -0500 )edit

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Asked: 2014-07-06 13:02:32 -0500

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Last updated: Jul 06 '14