Ultimate running companion

Better than human

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Human runners telling you to get lost because you're not rich, bald, & fat? Need a way to carry your junk, get video of your running form, pace your workouts, light your path, play music?

When it was introduced in 2013, it was a modified G-buggy no-one cared about. 3 years later, it was still no more than an RC car, but self driving car startups saw their valuations explode & anyone in Silicon Valley who saw this machine suddenly wanted to write a $65 million check. Should have really driven it down Sand Hill Rd & fielded buyout offers.

The key development was the remote control.

The object of the robot is manetaining a constant speed & heading on its own.  This is just automated enough for a lion to drive it with 1 paw while doing something else.  The journey began in Jan 2014, with a $40 G-Buggy the lion kingdom got for free.

This was the seed of the idea.  The lion kingdom would probably have never developed the complete robot if it wasn't for the original free G buggy.

It was a very poor at setting a pace, couldn't carry cargo, but could carry a camera.  The potential for documenting runs was there.  There was no easy way to measure speed & the steering was binary.  With enough tuning however, the steering could be made proportional enough to hold a heading.  

The steering mechanism was an interesting reduction of a servo into a spring that centered the wheels & a clutch plate that applied a steering force proportional to the speed of a motor.   The controller it came with could only do binary steering, but with a fast rate sensor & feedback loop, the steering could be made somewhat proportional. 

The inner clutch plate & outer ring it pressed against while spinning, but not while stationary.

With a constant voltage applied to the traction motor, it achieved poor speed regulation but infinitely better than lions trying to pace themselves.  

The final form of the 1st model.

Several models came afterwards, as budgets increased, culminating in the Tamiya Lunchbox.   The steering was finally proportional & the speed could finally be regulated.

Attempts to make it self driving all failed, for reasons startups are too familiar with.  

Key to making it all work was a paw controller.  Proportional steering & throttle would be nice, but weight & durability dictated binary tact buttons.  China simply never made a durable, compact, proportional sensor.

The  final design had 2 buttons for slow steering, 2 buttons for fast steering, 1 button for throttle.  This was proportional enough for all needs, with the computer automating speed & heading.  1 switch controlled reverse.

The stick was further refined with 900Mhz frequency hopping radios, 4" packing tape to insulate the switches from sweat.

The current system is a modified lunchbox with a very large container.

Suspension was lowered.  Wheels were reinforced.  Tires were wrapped in nylon. 

Current mail order parts which have yielded the best results, after thousands of miles:

bearings    10.48

Lunchbox kit    147.2

motor discontinued

1:10 2400kv size 540 35mm diameter 3.17mm shaft.  The 2848 descriptor is not reliable.

bec    6.86

Brushless servo    50

battery  ...

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  • New motor

    lion mclionhead02/28/2019 at 17:43 0 comments

    In a common theme with limited ordering time between long commutes & worthless currency, another wrong part arrived from China.  The 2848 designator on the Tacon 2848-2400kv does not symbolize diameter & length while it does on the B28-47-17S Brushless Inrunner 2300kv, so the required diameter is not 28mm but 35mm.   Another motor won't arrive from China until April.

    A large collection of useless servos & motors has accumulated.

    After much soldering, the electronics without the motor were finished & the cargo bolted on.

    The lights got much higher quality connectors.  Most of the other connectors were replaced by point to point soldering.  All the soldering was a bit better.

    Being a rare new build of a finished design that evolved to handle extreme abuse, it felt like a very high quality, commercial product from Japan.  The paint smelled fresh.  Everything fit together tightly.  The battery loading door was still stiff.  All the corners were still right angles & flat surfaces were still flat.  Lions never saw this design made out of virgin plastic.

    The size increase was significant.  The lion kingdom desperately wanted more room.  It made it much harder to plug in the battery.  It'll wear out the front tires faster.  Dual speaker straps were added, to try to wear the tires more evenly.  The previous camera tower won't work, because it's taller.

    There's still installing the motor in April, doing a final transmission lube, threadlocking the nuts, doing the final rear wheel installation, installing the oil cover, modifying the firmware for the gyro being right side up, fine tuning the wheel alignment, reinforcing the front tires, waterproofing the radio.  Wearing down the old rear tires as much as possible before putting them on the new front wheels.  The new front tires will go on the old rear wheels.

  • Vehicle #6 begins

    lion mclionhead02/13/2019 at 21:49 0 comments

    The total for the next vehicle ended up being around $320.  Should note the rising price of the lunchbox kit.  Lions have now built 5 vehicles.  Lions don't eat up robots.  Years of experience have shown 2 lunchbox derived vehicles to be the required fleet.  

    Hobbyking required using a chrome browser to enable shipping.  After 20 years, Firefox still can't render javascript, but doesn't lock up.  Chrome renders javascript but constantly locks up.  Nothing will ever be as fast as page loads in 1997.  That year, the backbone 1st lept ahead of demand while clockspeeds lept ahead of the static pages of the time.

    The journey began with 2 batteries.  Note China has shrunk the size, despite a negligible decrease in current.  Innovation ahead of refinancation.

    The new, higher priced kit arrived.  Remember how marvelous these boxes looked in hobby shops 20 years ago & how they're manely discarded now.

    Parts to be discarded & parts to be used are separated.
    Front wheels are strengthened with shapelock.

    Paint is applied to all exposed surfaces.  Very important to install plastic bushings as temporary masks.

    Servo is pre threadlocked.

    Battery tray is modified.

    The chassis is ground down, the hardest part of customizing this $150 kit.

    Chassis modification.

    A key modification was allowing the transmission to be removed without disassembling the entire chassis.

    Battery tray receives 1/4" spacers.

    Transmission receives wood blocks to attach an oil cover.

    Wood struts are installed.

  • Tire wear & Plans for another vehicle

    lion mclionhead02/07/2019 at 03:10 0 comments

    The 1st 2 nylon wrapped tires suddenly disintegrated after an extended period of good robustness, maybe from driving more on sidewalks instead of the bike path, so the 2nd set came together with gloves.  Lions hate wearing gloves, but  this operation is the 1st mess of carcinogenic adhesive big enough to leave no choice.  

    Though the problem is friction rather than tensile strength, there definitely should be an experiment with kevlar.  Kevlar, gloves, & some dogs would make it TSA compliant.

    With long commutes forecasted, plans for a new vehicle began.  The new vehicle will be exactly the same as the existing lunchbox.  The mane problem is the number of custom parts which must now be fabricated is quite high.  Custom tires are just the beginning.  Reinforced front wheels, suspension struts, chassis modification, cargo bay, ESC reprogramming & potting, headlights, handle, battery spacers, battery cage, transmission lubrication, radio stands, battery cables, all make you realize what it's like to be Chinese & create the modern world from nothing.

  • Laws covering robotic exercise coaches

    lion mclionhead01/24/2019 at 07:01 0 comments

    Something needs to be done about the law banning robotic exercise coaches from the bike trail. It's just a daunting task. The lion kingdom assumed 6 years ago, robotic exercise coaches would abound by now & there would have been enough industry pressure to legalize their use. Yet, there's still just 1 lion using them.

    The lion kingdom wouldn't know where to begin. A lot of people would have to agree on amending the law. All the women who told lions to get lost for the last 40 years live in the east bay. Not even sure if the needs of 1 lion would be enough to motivate any change.

    The laws aren't passed by voters, but a board of directors. The e-bike pilot program was a precedent, but it took a long time to implement & only lasted a year. There are board meetings where the public is supposed to address the board, but it's like jury duty. There's paperwork. You have to talk real fast.

  • Battery swelling margins

    lion mclionhead01/18/2019 at 07:05 0 comments

    After 4 years of water causing the wood to shrink, the battery spacers were expanded to 1/4".  Extra space is required to account for battery swelling.  Since the days when battery swelling was considered doom, it's become the standard aging process.  Products have extra space to account for battery swelling.  Unfortunately, this battery is down from 5Ah to 4Ah capacity or only 14 mile range.  Over 2400 miles with most of the discharges down to 33% capacity took their tole.

  • Wet ESC explosion

    lion mclionhead12/15/2018 at 21:42 0 comments

    For the 1st time, an ESC blew up from getting wet. All 3 PFETs blew up. They had been flown in rain, flown from wet fields, but never blew up before. Dunking in puddles finally got one wet enough to do the job. Potted it in aquarium sealer. It's not reworkable anymore.

  • Robo Rudolf

    lion mclionhead12/15/2018 at 04:36 0 comments

    To make the miles more interesting, the decision was made. Originally wanted to discard the ears & just use the antlers, but didn't have the stomach to tear it all apart, despite being $1. The intact antlers are easier to break down. The nose was an LED light bulb with a red LED replacing the white LEDs. The red LED needed a diffusing cover in the form of translucent heat shrink which is no longer made.

  • XBee Pro 900 returns

    lion mclionhead11/27/2018 at 04:18 0 comments

    Installed the ancient XBee Pro 900's & got instantly perfect results.  These were the only true frequency hoppers that really work.  The connection time is still a very long 30 seconds & the power consumption is 100mA.  They could be reconfigured for lower power, but the 2.4Ghz ran at 100mA for 5 years.  The packet rate is only 25Hz. 

    The ancient XBees are still the same outrageous price as 10 years ago.  

  • 3DR Radio for remote control

    lion mclionhead11/23/2018 at 09:48 0 comments

    The 3DR Radio/HM-TRP/Si1000 modules don't have any GPIOs like the XBee.  It was desperately hoped that the XBee could eliminate the need for a companion microcontroller with GPIOs.  Making custom Xbee firmware requires the EmberZNet SDK which is only available to owners of the $1000 EM35X-DEV kit.   With so much interference at 2.4Ghz, a broken channel changing command & no way to write custom firmware, they're worthless junk now.

    The lion kingdom replaced the firmware on its 3DR Radio to optimize it for transporting PPP instead of telemetry.  It didn't work because of lockups in the USB to serial adapters but might have worked with custom USB adapters.   That firmware is now lost forever & must be reverted.

    The stock 3DRRadio ran the SiK firmware.  In a testament to the commoditization of quad copters, the SiK firmware no longer compiles on any modern Linux version.  It was only ever used for moving quad copter telemetry to a laptop.

    The SiK issues were minor compiler errors from evaluating all constants to int instead of uint8_t & the default switch statement overriding all other cases with a the same rule.

    How to build & program it is still documented in the README.markdown file.  Besides ending every file in .markdown, this author also liked using ~ all over the filenames.  The lion kingdom's boards still had the grounding connections required to program the firmware.

    The firmware update command is:

    Firmware/tools/ --port /dev/ttyUSB1 Firmware/dst/radio~hm_trp.ihx

    Many users got "Verification failed in group at 0x0" errors.

    The mane cause of "Verification failed in group at 0x0" is trying to program a file starting in bootloader~.  The bootloader can't program itself.  You have to program a file starting in radio~.  The mane reason for this confusion is the ~ is normally the start of a directory name in Linux so we ignore everything before it.  

    With the firmware programmed, you have to configure them.  This is done in the AT command mode just like the Xbee.  ATI5 gives the default settings.  The baud rate is limited by the air data rate.  The only essential thing is reducing the latency.  They don't pass keyboard input through without reducing this.




    The goog still manages to find documentation on the ground connection required to enter bootloader mode & the AT commands.

    With the 3DRRadios installed, power consumption dropped from over 100mA to 40mA.  The update rate remaned stuck at 50hz & jittery.  Ideally, the update rate would be 100Hz & even.  There's no way to do that without custom firmware, but it's not worth it.

    New old radio installed with some effort at keeping the antenna from breaking off.

    3DRRadios broken apart.

    Stick controller with new old radio.

    The 1st 8 miles with this were a total disaster.  The 3DRRadio dropped connections randomly & would never reconnect until the vehicle module was power cycled.  Some of the problems were brief power glitches on the stick.  If the stick radio was power cycled, it would never reconnect until the vehicle radio was power cycled.  

    At other times, it dropped the connection when stopping the throttle.  The radio appeared to die before the stop command reached the vehicle.  Fortunately, the vehicle had a 1 second timeout & breaking enabled.  The throttle glitches pointed to something more sinister than power glitches, but either way, the stock 3DRRadio was trash.

    The next step would be the non frequency hopping XBee 900's from 10 years ago.  They would be another bandaid while working on the 3DR's.  They would also reveal any interference where the 3DR's failed.

  • Food poisoning by robot

    lion mclionhead11/22/2018 at 06:33 0 comments

    The virus came from eating food with the same paw that handled the underside of the robot & possibly licking a wrapper that was inside the robot.

    There's definitely fecal material on the underside from dogs.  The inside is more mysterious.  All food is wrapped up, but 24 hours before the symptoms, the lion kingdom wasn't the most sanitary.  It was the worst case of norovirus a lion ever had.  It was a reminder that the dirt on the last 10 years of vehicles isn't always dirt.

    Having said that, the lion kingdom got norovirus 2 days after an outbreak happened in a Chico evacuation shelter. Humans would have been streaming in from the fires.  It may not have been unsanitary lion conditions but other humans. After all those humans wore face masks to avoid the smoke, they really needed to avoid themselves.

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