Robotics and Openmoko

Peter Harrison cheetah100 at
Wed Jul 9 04:25:23 CEST 2008

I've been doing some robotics with Openmoko; with the Neo 1973. I thought I
would introduce myself a little.

Since January this year I have been working on a solar powered autonomous
boat project. I decided on using a Openmoko as the on board computer as it
has excellent power requirement characteristics and also has on board GPS
and GPRS. This deals with several subsystems at once. It is also a capable
computer compared to other low power CPU's such as PIC chips.

In this first video I show my boat on the water for the first time. At this
point it is remote controlled.

In the next video I show the Neo 1973 after purchasing it off eBay. At this
point I have managed to install the python based control software.

My first test of the Neo on the water involved returning telemtry about the
position. This involved gathering data from the GPS and sending it via GPRS,
but not yet actually controlling the boat.

Finally I complete the power supply and control aspects required for the Neo
to perform autonomous navigation and test it on the water. Sadly not all
goes to plan.

In my most recent video I once again try to test the OpenBoat, but even with
software refinements all does not go to plan.

The key to my robotic work has been made possible with Phidget controllers
which allow me to control servos and motor controller via USB. I have
compiled the Phidgets library for the Neo, and am using the Python bindings
provided by Phidget.

I intend to resolve the existing navigation issues by introducing a solid
state magnetic compass. At the same time I will introduce better power
management by measuring power use over time, along with heat and light
conditions. I would also like to add video via a external USB webcam.
However, this won't be video; just stills. If anyone has done this with a
Neo I would like to hear about it. I will keep everyone up to date with my

Open Source:
I intend to make all the software I've written open source. Its not exactly
working right now, so I've been reluctant to release it. That said if there
are people out there wanting to collaborate I'm only to happy to make it
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