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WHAT IS AN ACCELEROMETER
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The basic accelerometer is a device that measures change in speed. Put an accelerometer in your car, for example, and step on the gas. The device will measure the increase in speed. Most accelerometers only measure acceleration (or deceleration) and not constant speed or velocity. Such is the case with the accelerometers detailed here. And though accelerometers are designed to measure changes in speed, many types of accelerometers including the ones detailed in the following sections are also sensitive to the constant pull of the earth s gravity. It is this latter capability that is of interest to us since it means you can use the accelerometer to measure the tilt, or attitude, of your robot at any given time. This tilt is represented by a change in the gravitational forces acting on the sensor. The output of the accelerometer is either a linear AC or DC voltage or, more handily, a digital pulse that changes in response to the acceleration or gravity forces.
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USING AN ACCELEROMETER TO MEASURE TILT 683
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ADDITIONAL USES FOR ACCELEROMETERS
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Before we go into the details of using accelerometers for tilt and angle measurement in robots, let s review the different robotics-based sensoric applications for these devices. Apart from sensing the angle of tilt, a gravity-sensitive accelerometer can also be used for the following tasks:
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I Shock and vibration. If the robot bumps into something, the output of the accelerometer
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will spike instantaneously. Because the output of the accelerometer is proportional to the power of the impact, the harder the robot bumps into something, the larger the voltage spike. You can use this feature for collision detection obviously, but in ways that far exceed what is possible with simple bumper switches since an accelerometer is sensitive to shock from most any direction. I Motion detection. An accelerometer can detect motion even if the robot s wheels aren t moving. This might be useful for robots that must travel over uneven or unpredictable terrain. Should the robot move (or stop moving) when it s not supposed to, this will show up as a change in speed and will therefore be sensed by the accelerometer. I Telerobotic Control. You can use accelerometers mounted on your clothes to transmit your movements to a robot. For instance, accelerometers attached to your feet can detect the motion of your legs. This information could be transmitted (via radio or infrared link) to a legged robot, which could replicate those moves. Or you might construct an air stick wireless joystick, which would simply be a pipe with an accelerometer at the top or bottom and some kind of transmitter circuit. As you move the joystick your movements are sent to your robot, which acts in kind.
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SINGLE- AND DUAL-AXIS SENSING
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The basic accelerometer is single axis, meaning it can detect a change in acceleration (or gravity) in one axis only, as shown in Fig. 41.2. While this is moderately restrictive, you can still use such a device to create a capable and accurate tilt-and-motion sensor for your robot. The first accelerometer project we describe in this chapter uses such a single-axis device. A dual-axis accelerometer detects changes in acceleration and gravity in both the X and Y planes (see Fig. 41.2). If the sensor is mounted vertically so that the Y axis points straight up and down the Y axis detects up and down changes, and the X axis will detect side-to-side motion. Conversely, if the sensor is mounted horizontally, the Y axis detects motion forward and backward, and the X axis detects motion from side to side.
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To detect motion in 3D forward/back, left/right, and up/down you need both a single- and a dual-axis accelerometer mounted perpendicularly to one another.
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THE ANALOG DEVICES ADXL ACCELEROMETER FAMILY
Analog Devices is a semiconductor maker primarily for industrial- and military-grade operational amplifiers, digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital converters, and motion control
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