Figure 4. Mark III chassis with servo matching hubs.
USB or serial control) hardware to control the robot.
If you want to take this path, you really need to
check out RoboRealm since it simplifies the handling
of robot vision controls and feedback, as well as
connections to low level hardware through scripts
that talk to serial or USB devices connected to your
computer and the robot. Check out
www.roborealm.com and see if this is what you
are looking for. Heck, check it out anyway. This is
cool and inexpensive software.
Putting a computer on your robot might be a
challenge if it is a small one. Fortunately, there are
ways to put smaller and far less power-hungry
microcontroller based Internet boards with servers
designed for controlling embedded hardware (like a
robot) on your device. I am assuming from your
question that you don't want to develop your own
Internet server setup from raw components. There
are many Ethernet and Wi-Fi enabled devices
available that will allow that, but it will be a "heavy
lift" to learn them and develop your own platform.
With that in mind, the field of suggestions narrows
to "out of the box" and fully enabled devices that
you can talk to over a simple serial connection.
I'm not surprised that you are having trouble
finding what you want. It seems that there are a
number of Wi-Fi and wired Ethernet-to-serial modules
out there, but with one exception they hide from us.
And that exception is …
The first one that I can think of is the Netburner
series of products. These are all full Ethernet enabled
servers that connect to your local embedded system
or robot through a serial connection of some
kind. Netburner is soon to come out with Wi-Fi
expansions to their serial-to-Ethernet modules
(maybe by the time you read this column). The
boards that appear to be what you are looking
for will most likely be the SBL2E-100IR and
SBL2E-200IR (around US $30). If you want a
board wrapped in a box, the SBL2EX-100IR or
SBL2EXA-100IR (around US $100) might be of
interest. These are not Wi-Fi however. They will
need the Netburner Wi-Fi adapter which I
thought was a little difficult to understand from
their site. These modules are available directly
Fred Eady describes an i WEM-1001 Wi-Fi
module in the June ‘ 11 issue of SERVO
Magazine that you should look into. The i WEM-
1001 (1002 with integrated antenna soon) is a
complete 802.11 (Wi-Fi) implementation with a
standard UART interface that provides the
means for server functionality. I found these at
www.lemosint.com for around US $40.
The Wiznet WIZ610WI series module is
another fully integrated 802.11 Wi-Fi module
that gives you a serial-to-Internet connection.
Like the i WEM-1000 series, this device has
Figure 5. Solarbotics motors with wheels.
16 SERVO 08.2011