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More on LinuxToday Whitepaper: Embedding Linux in a Mobile Robot

Feb 23, 2000, 01:41 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jeanne Dietsch, William Kennedy, John Belanger)

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"Embedded systems frequently incorporate highly customized microcomputers, but our company's goal was to build a robot from commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) embedded components. We felt that this approach would maximize the R&D capabilities of our own team and minimize the cost of our product. COTS components were one of the efficiencies that allowed us to introduce Pioneer 1 in 1995 for prices 50% lower than our nearest competitors' robots -- and provide more features, too."

"The availability of Linux drivers became another critical requirement. Linux is important to our robots for several reasons. One key consideration is that the AI community prefers Unix-like OSes. Another important advantage of Linux has to do with the fact that robots -- unlike most computers -- keep moving even while you're trying to debug them!"

"One solution to this dilemma is to run the embedded computer as an X Windows terminal under Linux from an off-board (radio-Ethernet linked) computer during the software development process. Now this can also be done under Windows with Timbuktu, but, being integrated and free, X Windows is the preferred solution among academics. Without some such capability, programmers have to tether and dolly the robot, watching screen and wheel motions to debug. Or, they can plug a monitor and keyboard into the robot's control panel and follow it around. Obviously, terminal emulation saves shoe leather, tangled cables, and strangled pets!"

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