As promised in the previous post, some pictures and movies of the TwitLEDs robot in action.
First another view of the robot, with the different pieces:
We don’t have the proper “arena” yet, i.e. a big fenced-off floor area covered with glow-in-the-dark paint. Instead, these first trials used two pieces of foam board, taped together. It’s not perfect because the robot keeps running off track, and because the hump between the two pieces is quite high. Foam board isn’t really suited for this: it curls up too much from the moisture in the paint. We probably should have waited a bit longer for everything to dry completely…
The inital test code just printed out its name (povGlow) and the compilation date. In the first tests, one of the LEDs wasn’t working (a software bug, not hardware), so the text isn’t quite right:
You can clearly see the fading of the letters over time. This happens very quickly, but those faded letters then remain visible for quite a while. That’s why you can still see several trial runs “printed out” on the foam board.
So the basic idea of printing with light works, as you can see!
Here is a video (sorry, not inline), showing how the robot veers to the right as I put my hand in front of it to prevent it from running off the track. Note that I’m not touching the robot, I just briefly trigger the distance sensor. The on-board LED lights up in red when the correction takes place. It’s not very smooth, but it works.
Another picture, showing the decay of the printed text brightness:
Maybe 7 pulsed blue lasers (from DVD writers, perhaps?) could be used to create even more intense blue dots. As it is, with these blue LEDs the writing is very clear – but only in a relatively dark room. With the lights on, the text becomes virtually invisible. Even though the LEDs are bright enough to be painful to look at:
The quality of this “printer” is actually pretty good, considering how simple its technology is:
Finally, a run where the robot happened to stay a bit longer on track, allowing it to display its brief message a few times. Again as video – you can see the wobbling foam board, and this thing driving like a drunken duck, leaving its trail of fading messages behind.
All that remains, is to try and get some tweets into it in real time. Stay tuned…
Several days of testing have now drained the 4 alkaline AA to the point where the robot advances noticeably slower. Looks like we’re getting no more than an hour or two out of these batteries. Which is not really surprising: the DC motors must be eating quite a bit of current, and the LEDs probably draw up to 200 milliamps or so. Self-powered autonomous motion is really hard!