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FOLLOWING A LINE
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n Chap. 5 we made the robot move around the screen freely while avoiding objects in the environment. A robot is a device that can be made to do useful work. To be able to achieve its assigned tasks the robot will usually need to move to speci c locations where it will perform the required work. There are various ways we can move the robot around:
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Move along a prescribed path de ned by a line Freely move along a path that the robot determines for itself Move to a speci c destination while keeping within a speci ed limited boundary
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In subsequent chapters we will explore the second and third options. This chapter will explore the rst option. The advantage of having the robot move along a designated path is that we can ensure where the robot will be all the time as it progresses from one location to another. It is also easy to make sure that the robot will have no obstacles along its path or at least avoid having to program it with a sophisticated obstacle avoidance behavior. An example application for a robot of this kind is an automated waiter that carries food items along a continuous loop starting at the kitchen, winding around and between the tables, and returning to the kitchen. It would not be desirable to have a track that protrudes above the ground due to the risk of customers tripping over the exposed tracks. A robot that can follow a line painted on the ground would be preferable. The line does not have to be visible to humans. Only the robot s sensors need to see it.
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Developing a robot that can follow a line on the oor (perhaps black tape on a white oor) is a common activity at many robotics clubs. The project is straightforward enough that it usually can be understood and accomplished by novice robot enthusiasts, yet it is complex enough to introduce them to many aspects of robotics.
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7.1 The Base Program
In this chapter we will develop a few algorithms to perform line following, but before we can do this we need to develop a base program in which we will place the code that implements the various algorithms. The base program sets up the robot and the environment and then starts the robot on its way to follow the line using the algorithm that we want to test. The rst thing we need to do is to draw a line on the screen for the robot to follow. Next we need to create and place the robot on the screen. Finally we want the robot to start executing the line-following algorithm we are trying to test. The code in Fig. 7.1a contains three subroutines called InitializeRobot, DrawLine, and FollowLine. All the MainProgram does is call each of these in turn. The third line after the MainProgram label makes the robot move forward 10 pixels. The purpose of this will be discussed below. Notice how the use of subroutines makes it easier to understand what the program accomplishes. The subroutine names indicate what the subroutines do. The main program becomes an overall manager. Of course the actual details of each subroutine s actions may need further explanation, but if you keep this policy of modularization throughout your programs, whenever possible, the programs become self-documenting. The subroutine DrawLine creates a line for the robot to follow. The rst statement sets the width of the lines (in pixels). The next sets their color and the one that follows, positions the cursor on the screen. A series of LineTo commands draw the line one segment at a time. Refer to Sec. C.7 for details of these commands. Also see Sec. 7.4 for a better way to implement this routine. The IntitializeRobot subroutine positions the robot. The command rLocate x,y,heading creates the robot and places it on the screen at the speci ed location and heading. Since the robot s default radius is 20 pixels and this routine places the center of the robot 30 pixels to the right of the start of the line, the front edge of the robot will be 10 pixels away from the line. This is why we need to forward the robot 10 pixels before we start the line following routine. This action brings the front of the robot to the beginning of the line in preparation for following it. In a later improvement (Sec. 7.5) this action will not be necessary. RobotBASIC normally issues an error if the robot bumps into a color on the screen (collision with some obstacle). Since the robot must be able to move over the line, we must tell the system the color of the line so that it can differentiate it from an obstacle. We do this with the rInvisible Green command. Green is used here because the line color was set to green in the DrawLine subroutine. Refer to Sec. C.9 for a detailed discussion on the rInvisible command. The nal action of the MainProgram is to call the FollowLine subroutine. This subroutine is the code that actually performs the task of following the line. All the routines we will develop in this chapter will be replacements for this subroutine. Figure 7.1b shows
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