Ubuntu with a GUI on a Beagleboard


The Raspberry Pi is great if you’re looking for a cheap yet powerful computer running Linux, but let’s not forget all the other ARM dev boards out there. [Adam] spent some time this weekend putting together an Ubuntu distro for his Beagleboard XM to give it the convenience of a GUI and a whole bunch of drivers to get a lot of stuff done.

The Beagleboard XM is another high power ARM dev board that is a little more capable than the Raspberry Pi. With an integrated USB hub, LVDS LCD displays, and a camera board, the Beagleboard already has a lot of peripherals that are now only promised for the Raspberry Pi. The only problem with the Beagleboard XM is the state of drivers and software; a problem [Adam] resolved by bringing Ubuntu to the Beagleboard.

[Adam]’s distro comes with all the goodies a relatively high-powered ARM dev board should have: Python, scipy, numpy, and a few cool extras such as GIMP and Chromium. He says it’s a bit faster than the stock Raspbian distro on the Raspberry Pi, so if you’re looking for the best ARM/Linux dev board for your next project, you may want to give [Adam]’s distro a try.

Can a robot be a safe and cost-effective alternative to guide dogs?

[Tom Ladyman] is making the case that a robot can take the place of a guide dog. According to his presentation, guide dogs cost about £45,000 (around $70k) to train and their working life is only about six years. On the other hand, he believes that this robot can be put into service for about £1,000 (around $1500). The target group for the robots is blind and visually impaired people. This makes since, because the robot lacks a dog’s ability to assist in other ways (locating and returning items to their companion, etc.). The main need here is independent travel.

He starts with the base of an electric wheelchair — a time-tested and economy-of-scale platform. The robot navigates based on images from four downward facing cameras mounted on the pole seen above. The X on the top of the pole allows for a much wider range of sight. The robot identifies its companion via a tag on their shoe, but it’s got another trick up its sleeve. The cameras feed to a set of four BeagleBoards which work together to process them into a 3D map at about 12 FPS, allowing for obstacle avoidance.

Check out the video after the break for a bit more information. The 3D guidance system is also explained in detail at the link above.

Continue reading “Can a robot be a safe and cost-effective alternative to guide dogs?”

There’s a lot packed into this BeagleBoard controlled rover

That black box is hiding all kinds of goodies that make this rover a hacking playground. [Andrey] built the device around a BeagleBoard, which offers the processing power and modules that he needed to make the rest of it work.

The control unit shrinks the pilot down to the rover’s size, using a cockpit that has a steering wheel and other controls, and a monitor playing the stream from the camera on the front of the bot. It has a WiFi adapter which allows control via the Internet. The camera, which can be rotated thanks to its servo mounting, feeds the video to the BeagleBoard where it is compressed using the h264 codec (more about that and the cockpit here) to lighten the streaming load. You’ll also find an ultrasonic rangefinder on the front for obstacle avoidance, and a magnetic compass for orientation information. Finally, a GPS bolsters that data, allowing you to plot your adventures on the map.

It’s great, but it will cost you. Material estimates are North of five hundred Euros!

Say hello to our little friend, the BeagleBone

Small and more powerful… what more can you want? This is the newest BeagleBoard offering, called the BeagleBone. It’s packed with some pretty intriguing features, but let’s take a tour of the hardware first.

Like its predecessors, the BeagleBone sports an ARM processor. This time around it’s a TI AM3358 ARM Cortex-A8. It will ship with a 2 GB microSD card and has an Ethernet port and USB connection. The dual pin headers on either side of the board are designed to receive ‘Capes’ for expansion. Currently a DVI cape is in the works, with HDMI and others to follow.

Linux is running on board and one of the best features we see in the video after the break is the browser-based programming interface. When connected to a network, the BeagleBone serves HTML5 web pages. One of these is an IDE that lets you write and execute code directly from your browser.

Now, can we finally have our open-hardware set top box (hopefully running XBMC)?? At an MSRP of $89 this should be able to give AppleTV 2 a run for its money as an easy way to get your television some network connectivity. Continue reading “Say hello to our little friend, the BeagleBone”

Huge flexible LED matrix can be worn almost anywhere


[Erik] has been keeping extremely busy with his latest project, a flexible RGB LED matrix that he calls “Project Light Bright”. The folks at BuildLounge tell us that this is the first entry they have received so far in their “Light Contest”, in which they are giving away a free laser cutter to the best entry.

[Erik] hand soldered ten 16×16 RGB LED panels together in order to build this display, and the results are awesome. The entire thing is controlled by a WiFi-enabled Beagleboard, which drives all of the panels and then some. The Beagleboard features embedded web and DNS servers, which allows it to act as a wireless AP, enabling him to control the display using any WiFi capable device. The Light Bright displays all sorts of predefined artwork, but [Erik] can also alter the display on the fly via his phone as well. The entire thing is powered by a reasonably sized LiPo battery pack that he keeps tucked away in his pocket, which allows the display to run continuously for about 20 hours.

Check out the video below to see a quick walkthrough of [Erik’s] Light Bright suit, then be sure to stop by his site for more videos, details and updates on the project.

Continue reading “Huge flexible LED matrix can be worn almost anywhere”

Space camera streams data during flight

Take the risk of not recovering your hardware out of a near-space camera launch by streaming the data during flight. [Tim Zaman] is part of a team that developed the rig seen above. It sent 119 image back during the recent balloon launch. This included transmissions from as high as 36 kilometers.

The main hardware included a BeagleBoard with connected Webcam housed in a Styrofoam cooler for thermal protection. Pair that with a GPS module for location tracking, and a GPRS module for data transmission and you’re in business.

But that’s not all that went up. The team built a backup hardware module in case the primary failed. This one also had a GPS and GPRS radio, but was driven by an Arduino.

The radio connection made it easy to recover the hardware. GPS data led the team directly to the landing site. The package came to rest on the roof of a building, but we guess that’s more convenient than getting snagged at the top of a huge tree.

Don’t miss the hardware detail video that we’ve embedded after the break.

Continue reading “Space camera streams data during flight”