not, and provides the user with a very simple and easy
programming environment that they can start working with
Like most readers, I’ve worked with and tried a
plethora of different educational and hobbyist robots, and
I have been very pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to
create applications and try them out (Figure 16). The
I thought about how programming robots could work –
rather than the cycle of developing the program, loading it
into the robot, placing the robot in the test environment,
seeing it fail, taking it back to a PC, and repeating the
process, the ability to program the robot in situ — as well as
debugging the program right there — was also a
real game changer. I was amazed at how quickly I
could work through multiple iterations of a program
while staying on the floor.
When the Jade robot was being developed, I
wanted to include an RF communications capability.
Unfortunately, I could not find a hobbyist Bluetooth
or Zigbee RF adapter that integrated well into the
robot, so consequently I expanded my search to
commercial devices. The search was escalated when
we discovered what a joy it was being able to
download applications and other files, as well as
provide a debugging interface via RF rather than a
physical connection. The Bluetooth connection also
allows us to enhance the robot in ways that isn’t
possible with other small robots (Figure 17).
After an exhaustive search, we found a very
effective Bluetooth interface device which was built
into the Jade robot and — while we have a USB interface
for the same functions — all the initial users eschewed it for
the Bluetooth connection. Connecting Jade robot to a PC
using Bluetooth just takes a few seconds, and it eliminates
the need to take the robot out of the environment to
reprogram or debug it.
Looking back over the Jade robot development
experience, we made three decisions that turned out to be
serendipitous for us. I highly recommend them for anybody
who is about to embark on developing their own product.
The first is to base any PC software on Google Chrome
apps. When we were showing prototypes of Jade to
prospective customers, we discovered a very curious thing.
While 90+% of the users will be on PCs, almost 100% of
the decision makers use Macs. Developing PC software
using Chrome apps means that the application will work
(with 95% confidence) on all PCs from Windows XP to
52 SERVO 12.2014
Figure 16. Often, a highlight at the end of the workshop is
when the students realize that entering the same program
into multiple Jade robots and running them together will make
the 'dance.' We have seen elaborate choreographies involving
up to a dozen robots.
Figure 17. With the built-in Bluetooth adapter and
expansion capabilities, Jade can do some pretty unique
things. Here, it is using the built-in camera port to send a
selfie of itself to a PC.
Figure 15. The features of the Jade robot are accessible through the
different programming options available to the user.