Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
How new technologies are modifying our way of life

mardi 3 juin 2003

Linux presence is rapidly increasing in robots, replacing proprietary real-time operating systems. This is what says this NewsFactor Network article.

One of the reasons is the arrival of an Intel package composed of standards-based hardware and software.

The Intel reference designs feature its XScale microprocessor, Intel Centrino mobile technology, and 802.11 compatibility for wireless sensor networks. The package also includes Linux 2.4.19 and open-source drivers for devices that do things like sense infrared and perform ultrasonic measurements.

For instance, Acroname chose the Intel's robotics package.

Acroname is using Intel's robotics package in Garcia, a small, autonomous mobile robot that performs mapping and navigation functions. Why Linux? Because the alternatives are not attractive, Acroname president Steve Richards told NewsFactor. One option is to use a highly proprietary real-time operating system, he said, but such systems are aimed at high-volume applications.

So standard distributions of Linux work fine for "light" applications.

But for heavy-duty industrial robotics, the real-time version of Linux is taking root. RTLinux -- the hard real-time operating system version of Linux -- is being used heavily in commercial robotics and academic research, said Victor Yodaiken, president of the software development company FSMLabs.
Worldwide, RTLinux robots test milk, pick fruit, and handle DNA samples, among other tasks, Yodaiken told NewsFactor. A Linux real-time system is for robots that require "very precise control over positioning," he said. "Everything depends on a couple of microseconds here, a couple of microseconds there."

And what about Windows CE?

Another possibility would be to use Windows CE -- a reasonable choice for building an ATM or a computer for a heads-up car display, says Acroname president Steve Richards, but not for robotics applications where conforming to standards is important

Speaking of standards, when will we see them emerging?

A group called OROCOS (Open Robot Control Software) is developing a framework for open-source robot software that includes configurable components for kinematics (the science of motion) sensing, control and hardware interfacing, as well as shareable libraries.
The Robotics Engineering Task Force, spearheaded by Intel, also is looking to establish standard software protocols and interfaces for robotics. How great a role Linux will play in these standards is unclear.

Source: Vincent Ryan, NewsFactor Network, May 29, 2003

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