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New Camera Mast for Kinect V1

A project log for Sawppy the Rover

Motorized model of Mars rovers Curiosity, Mars 2020 For Under $500

RogerRoger 04/08/2019 at 19:120 Comments

When Sawppy first started running around, I wanted something to sit atop a camera mast where the real rover has a camera and sensor array. It is the anthropomorphic head of the rover and it looks slightly wrong without one. (Like a chicken running around without its head.) The first iteration of camera mast sensor array enlisted a standard USB webcam sitting alongside a Google AIY Vision kit. It was mostly for appearance because there wasn’t much software behind it.

The webcam was fun for entertaining children and occasional longer distance driving, but not immediately useful for autonomy. The AIY Vision box is optimized for classification tasks. I thought there might exist code useful for robotic visual localization but if it’s out there I have yet to find it.

The most promising tool at hand for rover localization is my Kinect sensor bar running RTAB-Map or some similar software. So Sawppy will inch towards autonomy by getting a camera mast upgrade to my Kinect V1 sensor bar and see if we can integrate that into rover systems in a useful way.

I went looking for a good way to mount a Kinect bar to Sawppy. I disassembled its base looking for a good mounting mechanism, but there weren’t convenient existing fasteners for me to use and there weren’t good places for me to drill and tap new ones. It was surprisingly crowded in there! I knew there was a motor for up/down tilt but I underestimated size of the motor gearbox inside.

I then reassembled the base and went with plan B: a simple flat platform for attaching my Kinect sensor bar with double-sided foam tape.

Kinect sits slightly offset camera mast center for two reasons.

  1. The Kinect sensor bar is very wide and if mounted centrally it overhangs to the right. I worry about it hitting obstacles so I wanted to bring it closer to the middle.
  2. By offsetting sideways, I could expose the top of the pipe used as camera mast and run Kinect’s wire down the middle for cleaner wire management.

At the moment this Kinect is no more functional for autonomy than the previous configuration… in fact, for its first public appearance at Yuri’s Night 2019 it is not even electrically connected to anything. It’s just a matter of taking one step at a time.

(Cross-posted to NewScrewdriver.com)

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