Funded! This project was successfully funded on July 30, 2012.

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A programmable, customizable, & hackable XBee controller. Control your most complicated of projects to your simplest.

 The Q4 & Q2 controllers are Open Source, XBee handheld controllers. 

The Q4 project started about a year ago.  There was a need to purchase a XBee based controller similar to a PS2/PS3 controller, but with more options.  With nothing available on the market, a project was started and several prototypes later the Q4 was developed.  It was taken one step further, with some minor changes to the case, the Q2 was developed as well.  

Q4 Controller

  • 32 Channels
  • 4 Gimbals Joysticks (Horizontal, Vertical, & Push-button control)
  • 4 (10K Ohm Linear) Potentiometer Dial Controls
  • 10 Push-buttons
  • 6 Toggle Switch Controls
  • 1 Power On/Off Toggle
  • Micro SD Card Slot 
  • 2x20 Serial LCD
  • Power requirements: 6-9 VDC (2S 500mAh Lipo or 9V battery)

Q2 Controller

  • 24 Channels
  • 2 RC Gimbals (Horizontal & Vertical control)
  • 4 (10K Ohm Linear) Potentiometer Dial Controls
  • 10 Push-buttons
  • 6 Toggle Switch Controls
  • 1 Power On/Off Toggle
  • Micro SD Card Slot
  • 2x20 Serial LCD
  • Power requirements: 6-9 VDC (2S 500mAh Lipo or 9V battery)

What's inside and how does it work?

The Q4 and Q2 are a line of controllers based on a Parallax Propeller as the main processor and a XBee for transmitting data.

Parallax Propeller Specs:

  • Parallel Processing
  • Processors (cogs): Eight
  • Architecture: 32-bits
  • System Clock Speed: DC to 80 MHz
  • Global RAM/ROM: 64 K bytes; 32 K RAM / 32 K ROM
  • Cog RAM: 512 x 32 bits each

Detailed Manufacture's Specs/Info

Prototype Board
Prototype Board

Current Prototype Features

  • Parallax Propeller
  • 5Mhz Crystal Oscillator
  • XBee module sockets
  • Full access to XBee pins via headers
  • micro-SD Card Slot
  • Serial LCD header
  • 4 Pin Header for programming (USB-to-serial port connection)
  • 8 unused pins for (Q4 model)
  • 11 unused pins for (Q2 model)
  • All input devices(joysticks, push-buttons, pot dials, & toggle switches) are fed thru 12Bit A/D Converters (MCP3208)
  • Unused Pins can be used to add additional circuits/sensors.  A few examples: accelemoters, gyros, compass, & GPS module to name a few.

Our demo video used the above prototype controller board in the handheld controllers.  Functionally nothing will change between the final and the current prototype board.  There are a few changes we want to make to the layout.

Top Case Deck
Top Case Deck

The underside of the top case deck will be reworked with PCB boards.  This helps two ways, neater wiring and easy dis-assembly of the top case deck. 

We are finalizing these boards and should have samples in mid July.  We'll update with pics when they come in.

What is the Propeller?

*Info taken from the Detail Manufacture's Specs/Info Link*     

The Propeller is a multicore microcontroller that excels at parallel processing. It contains eight processors, or cores, (called cogs) which can operate simultaneously at your will. Using the Propeller is like employing a team of up to eight workers for a project; the team members can work in parallel on given tasks and coordinate as needed to achieve a common goal. Being truly flexible and efficient, they can share, shuffle, and dedicate to duties, quietly wait for events, start and stop, and direct each other as needed.

Cogs have exclusive access to their own internal memory and unimpeded access to the System Clock and all 32 I/O pins. Each cog tracks I/O pin states with its own input register and influences pin outputs using its own output and direction registers; the collective of cogs determines an I/O pin's ultimate direction and state.

Cogs share access to main memory in a round-robin fashion through a central hub. Among other things, main memory is used in this fashion for coordination between cogs.

In addition, each cog contains hardware to assist with certain high-speed, repetitive tasks such as signal detection and video generation.

See the Block Diagram for a functional view of the Propeller.

Many years of thought and effort went into designing the Propeller to solve the problems plaguing modern embedded system designers. Every aspect of the Propeller was meticulously crafted using elemental concepts and building blocks. Read Why the Propeller Works by designer and Parallax company President, Chip Gracey, for some insight on the thought process and design quality of the Propeller.

How the software works

The flowchart below outlines how our current software is written.

The software operates with several processes running at one time.  It starts after initializing several cogs (starts parallel processing).  There are 4 processes running at the same time.  These processes are collecting data from the controller inputs(gimbals, buttons, & toggle switches).  This data is then stored as a variable for the XBee(Cog) to retrieve and transmit.  Each Cog is constantly repeating these tasks.  As a result we have a collective effort in collecting, storing, & then transmitting all the data via the XBee. 

Developing a elaborate menu for the controllers was something we decided against doing.  Instead we think users would get more use out of snippets of code.  These can be coded together to develop a menu that fits your application.  A little bit of work involved, but in the end you have a more efficient controller.  We are working on adding a forum to our site with examples we create and a place for contributions from users.  We are planning this builds a database of some good examples and at the same time shares programs/projects. 

Parallax.com also has an extensive object library which contains source code for many different types of devices.

What programming languages can I use?

The Propeller has two native programming languages: Spin and Propeller Assembly. They can be used together, or Spin can be used by itself.

Spin:  is the high-level object-based language Parallax designed specifically for the Propeller chip. Spin provides control of the Propeller's multicore hardware and encourages the principles of the Propeller's real-time application design in ways that were not represented by existing languages. Spin was inspired by portions of C, Delphi, and Python, and a host of problem/solution scenarios explored by its designers.

Propeller Assembly:  is the low-level 32-bit instruction set designed specifically for the Propeller chip. Though most of this language's instructions will be familiar to experienced assembly programmers, there are many that are specific to the Propeller's multicore architecture and a few features are unique to the language.

And recently released. 

Propeller GCC(Beta):  The Propeller GCC Compiler tool-chain is an open-source, multi-OS, and multi-lingual compiler that targets the Parallax Propeller's unique multicore architecture.  Using the Large Memory Model (LMM) and Extended Memory Model (XMM) gives the developer the ability to write C or C++ programs that run faster than Spin or exceed Spin's 32 KB program size limit, respectively.  Additionally, Parallax will be publishing tutorials on learn.parallax.com to provide experience to new developers interested in learning how to develop embedded applications in C or C++.   Experienced C or C++ programmers can check out more info on Propeller GCC

The current software uses Spin and assembly mix for the main program as well as supporting objects.  Since the recent release of GCC we plan to have a C/C++ version available by the Sept. delivery date.

How and where are they made?

All manufacturing happens in our Tooling & Die shop located just outside of Chicago.  This allows us to control the manufacturing process to allow for the best fabricated product.  We also use a local anodizing company for the final finish on the controllers. 

At this time we out source the manufacturing and the assembly of our boards overseas.  This is something we want to do in house, and are working on a way to accomplish this.

Reward Details/Info

Each controller shipped is a kit.  It does require assembly, a 1/16" & .050" Allen wrench are included.  Minor soldering will be required (We are trying to eliminate or limit this as much as possible).  Assembly consists of putting the controller together and plugging everything in.  The boards will be ready to use, tested, and even preloaded with a full functioning program.

*At the end of the project we will ask you for your choice for black or clear anodizing.

Things not included in the kit.

  • XBee Modules. 
  • Battery -- There will be a 9V 6" battery snap lead included.  (The snap lead can be cut off and replaced with any battery connector.) 

Thanks for checking out our project.                                                              Quantum Robotics Crew

FAQ

Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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