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CHAPTER 2 QUASIMODO
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Figure 2-2. The biped from behind (with the NXT on top removed) shows the looseness of the structure at hip level. The ankle is quite rigid instead. It s easy to run into similar problems when working with LEGO parts. Having such a loose structure is a problem that can arise, but don t worry. You can solve it as indicated in the schematic shown in Figure 1-2c, by adding the wedges in the inner side of the feet beams. The result of our biped is shown in Figure 2-3.
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Figure 2-3. Putting wedges in the inner side of both feet compensates for the leg joints slackness.
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Even after the wedge additions, the hip joint still tends to be quite loose (it s made with long gray pins, which connect the cam to the leg). To solve this tricky issue, I adopted the hip tendons shown in Figure 1-2d, a matter that could have been obscure to you just after reading 1. Don t worry though, it will become clear now. Compare Figure 2-4 (before the treatment) with Figure 2-5 (after the treatment). Notice how this elegant solution with the tendons made from LEGO steering links with ball joints, prevents the legs from bending. This last idea of creating tendons is particularly good because it does two things for the price of one: it solves the looseness problem and allows us to connect to the NXT brick in an original way.
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Figure 2-4. Tendons are not attached yet.
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Figure 2-5. Tendons are now attached. Because the tendons are connected to the legs, they swing the NXT in harmony with Quasimodo s gait, and the NXT seems as light as a butterfly. Don t forget that our beloved programmable brick acts as a hump here! I came up with this COG shifting mechanism almost without noticing it, and I must admit this combination of technique, inspiration, and luck is rare. Such a mix makes this robot special. In its simple shape, it summarizes a lot of theory about an unusual way of walking. Ah, I almost forgot: Quasimodo can only walk straight. To create a biped that turns, read the following chapters.
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Introducing NXT Technology
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Before going on, it s worth introducing the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT technology briefly. In your NXT retail set, you have LEGO parts, of course, but also some electronic devices that make the NXT system special: three interactive servomotors, a Touch Sensor, a Light Sensor, an Ultrasonic Sensor, and the NXT programmable brick itself. In addition, you have a user guide, and the LEGO software CD-ROM, which allows you to program the NXT using the NXT-G graphical programming language.
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CHAPTER 2 QUASIMODO
The LEGO elements are well assorted, so that you can start creating every kind of robot at once, without having to look for additional spare parts. The set includes LEGO TECHNIC studless elements, except for a few parts. Unlike the common LEGO studded bricks, you do not have to place one brick on another, like building a wall, but you have to start thinking more three-dimensionally, attaching beams and liftarms using pins. The NXT servomotors are different from the common LEGO motors. They are interactive, meaning that they include a Rotation Sensor (optical encoder) that allows you to control interactively the shaft position with 1 degree of resolution, and to set the rotation speed from 100 to 100. A whole shaft rotation is equal to 360 degrees. The Touch Sensor gives your robots the sense of touch: it detects when it is pressed or released, returning a Boolean reading that can be 1 or 0. The Light Sensor can distinguish between light and dark colors, measuring the amount of light reflected by the surface illuminated by its LED; it can also measure the light intensity in the environment with the LED off. The Sound Sensor makes your robot hear, measuring the sound intensity in decibels. Its readings go from 4 in a silent room to 100, corresponding to people shouting or loud music. The Ultrasonic Sensor enables your robot to see obstacles, measure distances, and detect movement. This digital sensor measures the distance from an object like a bat does, calculating the time needed by an ultrasonic sound wave to hit the object and return. It can measure distances from 0 to 255 centimeters, with an error of 5 3cm. Finally, the brain of your robot is the NXT brick. It is a microcomputer, programmable with a PC, that lets your LEGO robots come alive, just like JohnNXT (see 8). You can connect the NXT brick to your PC using a USB cable or Bluetooth. Bluetooth wireless communication is useful if you want to control your robots remotely, or just program it without annoying cables around. You can also connect more NXTs using Bluetooth, to make big complex robots. The NXT has three output ports for attaching motors and four input ports to connect sensors; it has a large dot-matrix screen to display text, numbers, and images. Also, your robots can produce sounds, because the NXT features a loudspeaker to play tones and WAV-like sound files. Two microprocessors are at the base of the NXT brick. The main processor is an Atmel ARM7 (like the one you might have in your mobile phone), and works at 48 MHz, on 32 bits. This allows your robots to deal with large numbers, making calculations at a high speed. The NXT has 256KB of nonvolatile memory; you can store files into it and they won t be erased, even if you remove the batteries. Oh, I forgot! The NXT needs six AA batteries to work, but can also be powered by the LEGO Li-Ion rechargeable battery. For other details, you can always consult the NXT User Guide included in your retail set.
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