platforms to utilize this software.
This difficulty reminds me of PC’s
early days with form factors such as the
S-100 bus used by the Intel 8080-based
Altair. I still have a stack of blank S-100
boards from the old days that I bought
‘back then’ thinking they would be the
industry standard expansion bus. Nope.
That was not to be. Ernst also
described interoperability and how
wireless connectivity is always an
industry afterthought. “None of the
products you see today or in the near
future are built to work with one
another,” he stated.
Stumbling Blocks in
Mobile Robot Design
Every robot designer has his or
her own trouble area of robot design.
Certain limitations can restrict a final
design to something less than a
designer would desire. Mobile robot
design presents the builder with a
whole new pile of potential problems
— from reliable batteries to energy-efficient (but powerful!) motors.
Of course, the design process
depends on the expected use of the
robot, the complexity level of the
intended final design, and funds and
time available for the parts and
Better Robot Power
Sources are Needed
Let’s discuss a few of the system
and component improvements, in my
opinion, that are needed for
tomorrow’s robots. In my experience,
the power source is the main
limitation for most mobile robot
designs. In the beginning, we had
lead-acid batteries for large robots and
‘flashlight’ batteries for smaller
creations. Lead-acid batteries could
leak sulfuric acid and were very heavy
— even the gelled-electrolyte SLA cells.
NiCds were the next step for size and
power density, and became popular
for mid-sized robots. They still
presented a few problems, however,
NiMH batteries came along next with
greater power density and no memory
effect, but even more power density
was still required.