Rex, the ARM-Powered Robot board

REX

There are a million tutorials out there for building a robot with an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, but they all suffer from the same problem: neither the ‘duino nor the Raspi are fully integrated solutions that put all the hardware – battery connectors, I/O ports, and everything else on the same board. That’s the problem Rex, an ARM-powered robot controller, solves.

The specs for Rex include a 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 with a Video SoC and DSP core, 512 MB of RAM, USB host port, support for a camera module, and 3.5mm jacks for stereo in and out. On top of that, there’s I2C expansion ports for a servo adapter and an input and output for a 6-12 V battery. Basically, the Rex is something akin to the Beaglebone Black with the hardware optimized for a robotic control system.

Because shipping an ARM board without any software would be rather dull, the guys behind Rex came up with Alphalem OS, a Linux distro that includes scripts, sample programs, and an API for interaction with I2C devices. Of course Rex will also run other robotics operating systems and the usual Debian/Ubuntu/Whathaveu distros.

It’s an impressive bit of hardware, capable of speech recognition, and machine vision tasks with OpenCV. Combine this with a whole bunch of servos, and Rex can easily become the brains of a nightmarish hexapod robot that responds to your voice and follows you around the room.

You can pick up a Rex over on the Kickstarter with delivery due sometime this summer.

21 thoughts on “Rex, the ARM-Powered Robot board

      1. Definitely too much for the casual robot builder but the board is nevertheless interesting if one aims at more complex stuff. I hope they will lower the price once they recover from design and production expenses. For us poor bastards there are now cheaper albeit still comparable solutions such as the Olimex A10/20 LIME or the Beaglebone black.

      1. I’d see that as kinda an oversight as far as controlling robots goes. This “solves the problem” of needing an Arduino, but would really benefit from adding an Arduino. Or Atmel MCU, whatever. I’m sure you can get I2C PWM driver chips, but would it be much harder or more expensive to just use an MCU anyway?

        As a robot driver PWM, and a few power FETs would be helpful.

        1. I’ve seen i2c ADC’s, PWM modules, dedicated servo boards, GPIO expanders and even an i2c slave-SPI master (NXP make them, havent seen a breakout board for them yet).

          Certainly have options, but even a small handful of GPIO headers natively would have been nice. I see your point.

  1. Hmmm.. I’m thinking that maybe a Beaglebone Black with an add-on board for high current DC motor control would be as good for less money.

  2. It certainly does look like a nice board and one of the real boons besides its size is the robust integrated power regulation.

    For me personally it hits the same issue as the original Beaglebone, price. The reason I originally went with the RasPi was price. The Beaglebone was $80+ the Pi was $30+ and the money I saved went into additional I2C sensors/Servo controllers for the Pi.

    1. Only if we leave out Raiden. What a delusional nut.

      As for the article, I’m glad they’re embracing Linux from the jump.

  3. Hi,
    Project creator here. REX is not just about the hardware, there are a lot of differences in the software too. Have a look at the software features in the kickstarter description page or goto the company’s website to get more details.

  4. I would be really excited about this, if only it was compatible with Raspberry Pi cameras. I have a Pi NoIR camera, which I plan to use with the hyperblue filter that came with it, and the Rex can’t use that camera.

    1. This SoC has a video input port that you can connect most camera modules to. I’m not sure if it has a CSI interface, but there are many parallel camera modules.

  5. Actually, there IS an existing solution which integrates all the cool stuff on the board, includes an easy to use IDE, and has a lot of capabilities. EZ-Robot. http://www.ez-robot.com/

    However, more solutions, especially F/OSS ones are always welcome.

    That said, I bought the EZ-Robot EZ-Builder kit and have been amazed at what it’s capable of at such a reasonable price.

  6. The hexapod solution can also be build with a raspberry. With the rex you still need a dedicated microcontroller to steer the 18 servos.

    I’m wondering about the performance on opencv tasks with a connected camera as my MSR-H01 hex gets about 2fps on QR marker detection with my own non-optimized code.

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