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If you need to control your robot over longer distances, you should consider using radio signals instead of infrared. You can hack an old pair of walkie-talkies to serve as data transceivers, or even build your own AM or FM transmitter and receiver. An easier (and probably more reliable) method is to use ready-made transmitter/receiver modules. Ming, Abacom, and several other companies make low-cost radio frequency modules that you can use to transmit and receive low-speed (less than 300 bits per second) digital signals. Fig. 16-8 shows transmitter/receiver boards from Ming. Attached to them are daughter boards outfitted with Holtek HT-12E and HT-12D encoder/decoder chips. The effective maximum range of these units is from 20 to 100 ft, depending on whether you use an external antenna and if there are any obstructions between the transmitter and receiver. More expensive units have increased power outputs, with ranges exceeding 1 mil. You are not limited to using just encoder/decoders like the HT-12. You may wish to construct a remote control system using DTMF (dual-tone multifrequency) systems, the same technology found in Touch-Tone phones. Connect a DTMF encoder to the transmitter and a DTMF decoder to the receiver. Microcontrollers such as the BASIC Stamp can be used as a DTMF encoder, or you can use specialty ICs made for the job. Another option that you can consider is the use of hobby remote control transmitters and receivers. Interfacing to the servo control signals is somewhat more complex than the
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FIGURE 16-8 RF transmitter/receiver modules can be used to remotely control robots from a greater distance than with infrared systems.
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digital I/Os of the Holtek chips, but this can be done fairly simply within a microcontroller (a BASIC Stamp 2 can handle this chore with ease; pass each of the servo outputs to a separate BS2 pin and use the Pulsout statement to convert the length of the pulse to a numeric value). If you don t feel comfortable interfacing the receiver to a microcontroller, then servos could be used to throw switches and control the robot mechanically or commercial motor controllers (used for controlling the motors in model airplanes, boats, and cars) can be used.
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To learn more about . . . Interfacing and controlling DC motors Connecting to computers and microcontrollers Using the BASIC Stamp microcontroller Read 20, Working with DC Motors 14, Computer Peripherals 15, The BASIC Stamp 2 Microcontroller
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POWER, MOTORS, AND LOCOMOTION
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CHAPTER
BATTERIES AND ROBOT POWER SUPPLIES
he robots in science fiction films are seldom like the robots in real life. Take the robot power supply. In the movies, robots almost always have some type of advanced nuclear drive or perhaps a space-age solar cell that can soak up the sun s energy, then slowly release it over two or three days. Nuclear power supplies are obviously out of the question. And solar cells don t provide enough power for the typical motorized robot, and as yet they have no power storage capabilities. Most self-contained real-life robots are powered by batteries, the same kind of batteries used to provide juice to a flashlight, cassette radio, portable television, or other electrical device. Batteries are an integral part of robot design, as important as the frame, motor, and electronic brain those components we most often think of when the discussion turns to robots. To robots, batteries are lifeblood; without them robots cease to function. While great strides have been made in electronics during the past 20 years including entire computers that fit on a chip battery technology still has a way to go. Today s advanced batteries, used in laptops, cell phones, and remote control vehicles, are able to store significantly more energy than batteries of even five years ago but still don t hold enough energy for their size, weight, and cost. For most robot applications, the most efficient power source is common alkaline and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries that can provide more than adequate power to all of your robot creations with judicious planning and use.
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