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Googles 20% time brings robotic app to Android

Nexus One on LEGO

With Apples infamous 4.2 TOS update banning UAV Apps from the iphone the Android platform is becoming the unmanned aircraft developers smartphone of choice.

Google lets its staff devote 20% of their time to things they really love. I think this will be a very interesting group t0o watch. The Nexus One already contains IMUs GPS and magnetometer and of course communications so its the perfect starting point for sUAS applications. The camera might even capture imaging.

Heres the word from the Google code blog.

Today we announced a fun 20% robotics project that resulted in three ways you can play with your iRobot Create®LEGO® MINDSTORMS®, or VEX Pro® through the cloud. We did this by enhancing App Inventor for Android, contributing to the open source Cellbots Java app, and beefing up the Cellbots Python libraries. Together these apps provide new connectivity between robots, Android, the cloud, and your browser.

You can start empowering your Android phone with robot mobility by picking the solution below that matches your skill level and programming style:

  • App Inventor for Android
    This is an entirely cloud based programming environment where you drag and drop elements into a project right within your browser. The latest features for robots include a low level Bluetooth client for connecting with many serial-enabled robots, and tight integration with LEGO MINDSTORMS. There are seven LEGO components in all, with NxtDrive and NxtDirectCommands used for driving and basic control while NxtColorSensor, NxtLightSensor, NxtSoundSensor, NxtTouchSensor, and NxtUltrasonicSensor are used for sensors.Also be sure to try out the social components to connect with Twitter, andTinyWebDB for hooking up to AppEngine. All of these can be used together to make your phone a powerful robot brain. 

Cellbots for Android

We wanted to offer a flexible application that could drive multiple platforms and support different control modes. To do this we created the Cellbots Java application which currently supports four robot platforms and allows additional robot types and UI control schemes to be added using the standard Android SDK. It is entirely open source and available for free in the Android Market so you can try it out right away.

With it you can use the phone as a remote control with D-Pad, joystick, accelerometer, or voice control inputs. Then try mounting your phone to the robot in brain mode where you can stream video back to a web browser and make the robot speak using Android’s native text-to-speech. For those of you with two Android phones, we support remote-to-brain mode where you can ask the robot for its compass heading or change the persona on screen.

The 20% team got together to create a more modularized version of the popular Cellbots project, which is all open source code. The goal for the Python library is to allow developers an easy way to demonstrate the features on Android phones suitable for robots. There are commands to make it speak, listen, record audio, take pictures, get a geolocation, and of course provide the I/O to the bot.

The Python code is the most flexible in terms of connectivity with support for Google Talk chat over XMPP, HTTP through a relay or direct connection, telnet, and voice input. To use it you just need to install the Scripting Layer 4 Android and enable the Python interpreter. Then copy over the Python and config files to the SD card and script away.

We hope this gives developers, hobbyists, and students a head start in connecting the next generation of cloud apps to the world of robotics. Be sure to push your mobile phone’s processor to its limits and share the results with the Cellbots Google Group. Try using Willow Garage’s OpenCV for Android or the new Gingerbread APIs for gyroscopes, enhanced OpenGL graphics, and multiple cameras!

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