54 SERVO 08.2016
f 1980’s sci-fi is to be believed, connecting robots to
the Internet should be undertaken with extreme
caution. That said, controlling robots over the Internet
seems like a logical extension of the much ballyhooed
Internet of Things (also known as the Io T). The Internet
of Things refers to the fairly nascent phenomenon of
connecting “things” (other than computers) to the Internet.
These things usually have some sort of sensor-based
tangible interaction with the world — like the “smart”
thermostat from Nest which lets you control your home
temperature from your smartphone.
More things are joining the Io T as of late, with their
membership in this futuristic club most often denoted by
the prefix “smart” — like a smart fridge that can sense its
own contents, which we suppose would be helpful for folks
unable to make their own grocery lists and yet somehow
still be able to set up a smart fridge.
Much of the Internet of Things is populated by
relatively passive devices that are most often used for
monitoring — whether it be monitoring the energy usage in
your home or on a larger scale (the smart grid), or
monitoring the location and fuel levels of your various
trucks (for fleet management) if you’re some kind of
So, what if you want to control something a lot more
sophisticated than a thermostat over the Internet, like a
robot? Setting a temperature dial from your smartphone is
one thing, but a robot should be a lot more maneuverable.
Is there an easy way to induct your robot into the Io T?
Would a smartphone make a serviceable controller? Is this
how Skynet got started? Sometimes all a rover wants to do
is phone home, so we were going to roll the dice, hope our
own personal bot-net didn’t become self-aware, and
connect a robot to the Internet.
Honey, I Shrunk the Internet
We really started thinking about over-the-Internet
control for a bot with our Agent 390 project featured in the
April 2016 issue. With the Agent 390 base and some
Jaguar speed controllers in hand, we needed to sort out a
control system for wreaking havoc with our mini tank. Our
regular radio controller was in use with our recently unretired combat robot, Troublemaker (who made a
triumphant return to competition at RoboGames 2016 —
by Bryce Woolley and Evan Woolley
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