Apeiros - An Open Source, WiFi Mobile Robot
A low cost, open source, expandable, mobile robot that can be used for education, hobby and research related activities.
Video of WiFi Apeiros being Driven by Android Phone
Above video shows how a WiFi enabled Apeiros can be controlled by an Android phone. I have only just started to develop this Android application, but intend to make it available to all once it is complete.
Two Apeiros Robots Play Follow the Leader
Apeiros [“ah.pay.ross”] Overview
During my time as an undergraduate mechanical engineering student I was introduced to robots and since then I have been designing, building and testing robots for use in academic and industrial applications. As part of my doctoral research I designed and validated a robot that was used as a tool for teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and as a tool for swarm robotics research. I have done my best to design Apeiros, so that it is low-cost, flexible, and entirely open source. I have named my robot Apeiros because I believe that learning should be boundless!
The Design & Development History of Apeiros
I developed Open-Robot prior to Apeiros (shown below). Open-Robot initially used a custom control board of my own design. The original controller was based upon the 8-Bit PIC18F4520 microcontroller. I decided to migrate to the popular chipKIT(TM) UNO32(TM) board by Digilent(R) Inc, so that end-users can easily develop and debug their own programs and without the need for expensive hardware programmers & debuggers. Additionally, the UNO32(TM) is a powerful 32-Bit microcontroller that is capable of running at 80 Mhz 32-bit MIPS.
Above image displays my custom PIC18F4520 controller board.
Above image shows a group of Open-Robots that are searching for passive RFID tags.
I worked to develop several design concepts for an injection molded body (shown below). Migrating to an injection molded body will help to reduce the overall robot cost while streamlining robot assembly.
Yet another design concept is shown below.
After many design iterations I narrowed in on the final Apeiros body design shown below. I wanted to create a robot body that encapsulated most of the mechanics and sensors, but also one that would remain open for future expansions.
3D Printing has helped me to perform functional verification testing on Apeiros' body design. In this way, I have been able to work through all the bugs prior to purchasing the injection mold tooling.
I have spent the last year refining Apeiros and today it is ready for production!
Basic Version of Apeiros
The basic version of Apeiros comes with an injection molded body base and a laser cut acrylic top cover. Two Solarbotics GM8 gear motors and a rear mounted caster wheel make up the robot's differential drive system. The "brains" of Apeiros is the chipKIT(TM) UNO32(TM) board by Digilent(R) Inc. I have designed a motor control add-on shield that stacks on-top of the UNO32(TM) board and controls both gear motors. Two Infrared (IR) sensors from Pololu are mounted within the front of the robot's body and allow Apeiros to detect objects within its environment. You can purchase two additional IR sensors and install these in the rear left and rear right locations of Apeiros' body. Rear mounted IR sensors can be used to sense objects or other robots that are located behind Apeiros.
You can program Apeiros' UNO32(TM) using the freely available Multi-Platform Integrated Development Environment (MPIDE). End-users can run the MPIDE on Windows(R), Linux(TM) and MAC(TM). The MPIDE makes it easy to develop programs or what are commonly referred to as sketches in the Arduino community. I have already developed and tested a library for Apeiros, so that end-users can quickly and easily design their own custom sketches. End-users can download and install the MPIDE & Apeiros library and be up and running with their robot in a matter of minutes. After compiling your sketch simply connect the USB cable and download it to your robot. Once the download is complete you disconnect the USB cable, turn your robot on and it will execute your program!
The basic version of Apeiros has been designed to be expandable, so that end-users can perform more advanced experiments and investigations by simply purchasing additional hardware as needed. I have integrated multiple design features that support various add-on shields and mechanical hardware. At this time I have designed and tested a total of (4) add-on shields: (1) Motor control & IR sensors, (2) Gripper control & line following sensors, (3) Vision & SRAM Memory shield and (4) WiFi & light sensor shield.
What Can be Done with Apeiros?
The Basic version of Apeiros can perform open-loop control of the left and right gear motors while monitoring the front left and front right IR sensors. In this basic configuration you can design algorithms and program Apeiros to avoid obstacles and even other robots. Purchase and install a pair of WW12 encoders by Nubotics and Apeiros can perform closed-loop Proportional, Integral, Derivative (PID) velocity and position control of its left & right gear motors. With wheel encoders your robot will be able to drive a specific distance forward, backward or even rotate a specified angular displacement.
Add the WiFi & Light Sensor Shield to Apeiros and you will be able to control your robot from any WiFi enabled device. I plan to release the WiFi shield in the near future. At this time I have created a C# library that can be used to create your own wireless Windows(R) applications. If you are targeting other operating systems, then you will need to develop your own application code. The WiFi shield has (4) light detection sensors that allow Apeiros to perform such behaviors as light tracking and light avoidance (photo-phobic).
In the future I intend to release a gripper kit that will allow Apeiros to be upgraded with gripper mechanics along with a gripper control shield. The gripper control shield will also accept popular line following sensors by Pololu, so that Apeiros can be programmed to perform line following behaviors.
The gripper design has compliant springs that function to protect the servo drive from being damaged when an object is gripped.
I also plan to release a Vision & Memory shield, so that Apeiros can acquire images and perform more advanced behaviors related to swarm robotics. The Vision shield integrates the popular Stonyman vision sensor by Centeye Inc. I integrated a high-speed SRAM chip, so that images can be buffered locally. Buffered images can be transmitted via WiFi to a laptop where more advanced image processing techniques can be applied.
I plan to work on releasing the WiFi, Gripper and Vision+Memory add-on shields after delivering all the rewards associated with this Kickstarter campaign.
Apeiros has been designed to be entirely open source. Design documentation for the electrical and mechanical hardware along with the source code for all of the software will be made available. In this way, end-users can easily modify and customize their robot. End-users can also delve into the design details and learn why. For example, end-users can examine the 3D body design and observe part draft and learn why it is critical when designing a part to be manufactured using the injection molding process. Examine the Vision & Memory shield PCB design and see how to interface with SRAM via Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI). The learning opportunities are boundless!
Contents of Unassembled Basic Apeiros Kit
Basic Robot Specifications
- Overall Diameter: 5.88 inches
- Overall Height: 3.375 inches
- Drive System: Two Wheel Differential Drive and Caster Wheel
- Target Body Color: ProtoMold UN66083 Fresh Green
- Target Top Cover Color: Pololu Transparent Green
- Power Supply: (6) AA alkaline or rechargeable batteries (not included)
- "Brains": chipKIT(TM) UNO32(TM) by Digilent(R) Inc. Program using freely available MPIDE.
Thank You for Your Interest and Support!
I would like to thank everyone for their interest in Apeiros and look forward to bringing this robot to life!
Risks and challenges
I have spent the last year or so working through prototypes and also performing functional verification testing on the software, electrical and mechanical hardware. However, as with any project there are associated risks.
Based upon my engineering experience, the biggest risk is bringing the injection mold tooling online. If issues are discovered within the first part run, then they will need to be mitigated with tool modifications.
The second largest risk is related to material sourcing. Depending upon the actual demand for Apeiros it is hard gauge whether anyone in my supply chain will struggle to satisfy production quantities. Throughout my career I have developed a relatively sizable network of supplier contacts and this provides a level of confidence.
The third risk is related to on-time delivery of the assembled versions of Apeiros. At this time I plan to hand-assemble and test each assembled version of Apeiros right here in the US. I have been designing, building & testing robots for the last decade, so I have high confidence, but again a risk is a risk.
I will do my best to mitigate each and every issue that is encountered, so that I can meet the planned delivery dates. In the event that a supply chain delay is encountered I will forecast and communicate a new delivery date as soon as possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)