Abotics - Mobile Robotic Services

by Abe Howell and Dave Sersen

Mobile Robotic Services (MRS) is a unique software application and architecture that allows end users to create, compile, upload and store programs for a low-cost mobile robot using a web capable mobile device (notebook, tablet pc, Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)) using Bluetooth and a Web Service. In addition, users can manually control the robot with and/or without a network connection and interrogate attached sensors using a mobile device. A Web Service has been leveraged to take advantage of a desktop/server computing power for the robot program compilation and database storage. This project started out as an entry for the Microsoft sponsored 2004 Imagine Cup Competition, but has expanded and was recently presented at the 2004 IEEE Electro/Information Technology Conference (EIT).

At the start of this project we were targeting the Imagine Cup Competition and had approximately 6 weeks before the first round of the local competition. This 6-week time frame also included the initial brainstorming sessions for our basic project idea. Our team consisted of (2) Computer Science students, (1) Electrical Engineer and (1) Mechanical Engineer. With all the technical bases covered we figured that this project was feasible. From the beginning we knew that access/control of the serial port on the mobile device was going to require a significant amount work and coding. Our teamís previous mobile device serial port experience has been with Metrowerks Code-Warrior for the Palm OS. We knew in advance that going this route would eliminate us from the competition due to the time constraint, so we decided to look into using a Pocket PC running Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 software with the .Net Compact Framework. After some additional research it was discovered that the .Net Compact Framework doesnít provide any high-level serial port functionality and that we would need to code/develop this ourselves. Finally, after numerous Internet searches we came across the Franson SerialTools website and decided to download a 14-day trial copy. Literally within minutes we had created a fully working simple application for an HP iPaq4155 using the supplied sample programs.

Needless to say, we successfully finished in time for the local round of the competition and were lucky enough to take first place and move onto the East Coast Regional Round. Unfortunately, we were up against strong competition during the Regional round and didnít make it to the National Round, but had a great time throughout the entire process. Currently, the project is still under development, but we intend to move forward and eventually release a beta version for testing in the classroom environment. Since the competition, Abe Howellís Robotics has purchased the Standard SerialTools for both the .Net Desktop Framework and the .Net Compact Framework so that we can continue to enhance and fully develop MRS and also investigate new applications. Below you can see several screenshots of our final application as it appears on the Pocket PC and also a picture of the low cost robot.

Main Screen

Code Panel

Manual Mode Screen

Local Program Storage/Retrieval

Low Cost Mobile Robot

For additional information and updates please visit the following web site http://www.abotics.com/abotics_projects.htm
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