Years ago I was given a shiny, silver Robosapien. It’s an awesome humanoid robot controlled and programmed with an infrared remote. Unfortunately with 90+ commands and functions the remote is pretty cumbersome. So I always intended to see if I could put something together to control him from a PC, but I never got around to doing it.
My 5 year old is in his first year of school and since he now has some basic reading skills I thought I’d try to introduce him to programming. Initially I tried out Scratch and whilst he loved playing with the outputs the UI was too abstract and complex for him to grok. However he is enamored with robots, gears, motors and inventions, so I figured that controlling something physical with a simple set of commands would work better for him.
And so Project Frankensapien was born.
First off I decided that I didn’t want to do anything invasive to the Robosapien (now know as Frank). This means that my interface to him would need to be via IR, emulating his remote control. Secondly I want to be able to control him from a PC to shorten the development and testing/hacking cycle. Additionally I’d like to play with some computer vision stuff and I figured that I’d go RoboCup styles, using the processing grunt of the PC as the brains of the robot and broadcasting simple instructions to the robot to carry out.
Lastly I’d like to try make Frank autonomous by strapping a Raspberry Pi to him!
With this in mind I purchased an USB Infrared Toy v2. Its USB interface means it can be plugged into my PC and into the Raspberry Pi. The device is also both an IR receiver and transmitter which means I can use it to record, analyse and emulate the IR command sequences sent by Frank’s remote.
The first step in the project was to be able to send Frank’s commands via the USB Infrared Toy. To do this I settled on trying to get WinLIRC up and running. This software is a Windows port of LIRC and provides tools to capture and execute IR commands. Better yet it has direct support for the USB Infrared Toy and its config files are compatible with LIRC so I should be able to use the same configuration files on the Raspberry Pi.
Installation of the USB Infrared Toy was pretty straight forward, I just followed the instructions detailed on the dangerousprototypes website. Next I downloaded WinLIRC and a LIRC configuration for the Robosapien I found on the web (I had to retrieve the file from the Wayback Machine as it had fallen off the Internet).
I fired WinLIRC up and… nada. It did not like the configuration at all :( Additionally the COM port for the USB Infrared Toy (yes, you talk to the USB Infrared Toy via a serial over USB connection) kept disappearing on me. Things were not looking good at all.
After digging around on the web I found that I could use the IRGraph to get a visualization of what the USB Infrared Toy is receiving. This generated a graph looking like this:
and showed that the toy was able to read the IR commands sent by Frank’s remote.
Next up I tried to use the IRRecord tool to record commands from Frank’s remote and then generate a LIRC config file. The tool seemed to have real issues dealing with the Robosapien remote and the config file that it generated did no work. It did however generate a good config for my Samsung TV remote.
Looking at the software for the USB Infrared Toy, I discovered a tool called irtoy that records and plays back IR commands. So I thought I’d give this a try. Unfortunately it required a firmware update and when I tried the update it got stuck in bootloader mode and I could not access the USB Infrared Toy! After some cursing and switching of USB ports (and waiting), windows finally found the toy (which turns into a USB human interface device in bootloader mode) and I was able to complete the firmware upgrade. Phew!
The irtoy tool recorded and played back a command so further confirmed that the USB Infrared Toy could be used to communicate with Frank. So (slightly in frustration) I bought a copy of AnalysIR which apparently supported LIRC export and the USB Infrared Toy.
Whilst I waited for the license key for AnalysIR, I figured I’d try to roll a config by hand. Using info gleaned from the following links:
I put together a config file that only handled the STOP command, fired it up and got Frank to… fart! (the OOPS command). Which was pretty funny but also slightly indicative of my feelings towards my efforts so far.
Comparing the bitmasks of the STOP and OOPS commands, I didn’t see much correlation. I figure I just got lucky and managed to send some junk that Frank managed to understand.
0x8E - 10001110 - STOP 0xC7 - 11000111 - OOPS (Fart)
However I did get something useful out another of WinLIRC’s tool, RawCodes, when pressing the STOP button on Frank’s remote:
SPACE 16777215 PULSE 6741 SPACE 3605 PULSE 789 SPACE 917 PULSE 853 SPACE 917 PULSE 831 SPACE 938 PULSE 831 SPACE 3605 PULSE 789 SPACE 3626 PULSE 789 SPACE 3647 PULSE 789 SPACE 895 PULSE 853
Mapping the long spaces to 1’s and the short ones to 0’s I was able to figure out that:
- The first space is just an artifact of the tool
- The next pulse+space were long, acted as a header and the first bit and was always a 1
- One’s were a short pulse and a long space
- Zero’s were a short pulse and a short space
- There was a single short pulse at the end of the sequence
- The commands were thus 7 bits long (not including the header)
So I coded up the following config file and gave it a whirl:
begin remote name Robosapienv1 frequency 39200 header 6666 3550 bits 7 eps 30 aeps 100 one 833 3333 zero 833 833 foot 833 16777215 begin codes STOP 0x8E end codes end remote
Success! Next I used the data on the RoboSapien IR Codes page to get the rest of the commands and added them to the file:
# WinLirc/Lirc config to control V1 Robosapien # # Testing with WinLirc and USB Infared Toy V2 # # from http://www.markcra.com/robot/ir_codes.php # and http://lirc.10951.n7.nabble.com/robosapien-config-td272.html # and http://daverobertson63.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/updated-robosapien-ir-control-arduino/ begin remote name Robosapienv1 frequency 39200 header 6666 3550 bits 7 eps 30 aeps 100 one 833 3333 zero 833 833 foot 833 833 begin codes # movement commands (no shift) TURN_RIGHT 0x80 RIGHT_ARM_UP 0x81 RIGHT_ARM_OUT 0x82 TILT_BODY_RIGHT 0x83 RIGHT_ARM_DOWN 0x84 RIGHT_ARM_IN 0x85 WALK_FORWARD 0x86 WALK_BACKWARD 0x87 TURN_LEFT 0x88 LEFT_ARM_UP 0x89 LEFT_ARM_OUT 0x8A TILT_BODY_LEFT 0x8B LEFT_ARM_DOWN 0x8C LEFT_ARM_IN 0x8D STOP 0x8E # Programming commands (no shift) MASTER_COMMAND_PROGRAM 0x90 PROGRAM_PLAY 0x91 RIGHT_SENSOR_PROGRAM 0x92 LEFT_SENSOR_PROGRAM 0x93 SONIC_SENSOR_PROGRAM 0x94 # Green shift commands RIGHT_TURN_STEP 0xA0 RIGHT_HAND_THUMB 0xA1 RIGHT_HAND_THROW 0xA2 SLEEP 0xA3 RIGHT_HAND_PICKUP 0xA4 LEAN_BACKWARD 0xA5 FORWARD_STEP 0xA6 BACKWARD_STEP 0xA7 LEFT_TURN_STEP 0xA8 LEFT_HAND_THUMP 0xA9 LEFT_HAND_THROW 0xAA LISTEN 0xAB LEFT_HAND_PICKUP 0xAC LEAN_FORWARD 0xAD RESET 0xAE EXECUTE_MASTER_COMMAND_PROGRAM 0xB0 WAKEUP 0xB1 EXECUTE_RIGHT_SENSOR_PROGRAM 0xB2 EXECUTE_LEFT_SENSOR_PROGRAM 0xB3 EXECUTE_SONIC_SENSOR_PROGRAM 0xB4 # Orange shift commands RIGHT_HAND_STRIKE_3 0xC0 RIGHT_HAND_SWEEP 0xC1 BURP 0xC2 RIGHT_HAND_STRIKE_2 0xC3 HIGH_5 0xC4 RIGHT_HAND_STRIKE_1 0xC5 BULLDOZER 0xC6 OOPS_FART 0xC7 LEFT_HAND_STRIKE_3 0xC8 LEFT_HAND_SWEEP 0xC9 WHISTLE 0xCA LEFT_HAND_STRIKE_2 0xCB TALKBACK 0xCC LEFT_HAND_STRIKE_1 0xCD ROAR 0xCE ALL_DEMO 0xD0 POWER_OFF 0xD1 DEMO_1_KARATE 0xD2 DEMO_2_RUDE 0xD3 DANCE 0xD4 end codes end remote
Using the Transmit tool that comes with WinLirc I can now send Frank commands using the the USB Infrared Toy, for example:
Transmit Robosapienv1 HIGH_5 Transmit Robosapienv1 BURP Transmit Robosapienv1 TURN_RIGHT
My favorite to date is the “pull my finger” script which programs Frank’s right touch sensor to OOPS when touched:
Transmit Robosapienv1 RIGHT_SENSOR_PROGRAM Transmit Robosapienv1 OOPS_FART Transmit Robosapienv1 PROGRAM_PLAY
Next up I plan to cobble together a simple web interface so that Frank can be controlled via a browser. Unfortunately the USB Infrared Toy’s range seems a bit limited (about 50cm max) so I may have to accelerate the plan to strap the Raspberry Pi to Frank so that I can keep the IR emitter permanently near his head. I also want to have a good play with AnalysIR tool, whose license turned up just as I succeeded in hand coding the LIRC config.
Python ships with a handy little web server that will serve up the files in the folder from which it is run. This is really handy for development.
Run the following command to start the server:
python -m SimpleHTTPServer
Or if you are using Python 3, run:
python -m http.server
In the mid 80’s my tweenish self was introduced to something that blew my mind and that was Robotech. I (and most of the western world) had not encountered Japanese animation or Anime before. With it’s complex story arc, the alien Zentraedi intent on wiping out humanity, cool transforming robots and awesome mass battles, I was hooked.
When the story started to span generations of characters and the even bigger threat of the Invid was revealed, young me was stunned. This was perhaps the first time I had encountered space opera and never ever had I seen a “cartoon” which such a vast scope.
Here is the first episode of the 85 that made up the series:http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x149lw9
Of course in later life I discovered that Robotech was actually a mashup of 3 different Japanese TV shows, artfully edited together and dubbed to make a cohesive story. Anime purists view Robotech as an abomination but personally I think it is one of my favorite Anime series.
One word of warning… it has singing, yep singing. For some strange reason the series always seemed to have a singer as one of the characters and in true 80’s Anime style the songs and accompanying animation are endlessly recycled. Luckily older me has access to digital versions of the shows so I can just fast forward through these bits, a luxury that tween me did not :)