M-CLE: Hacked Smart Cycle

smartcycle

M-CLE, described as ” a physical learning environment in which synergistic artificial intelligence through the use of robots(creative agents) is employed to  embellish the creativity of the child”, looks like a pretty fun toy. For those of you who haven’t figured out what it does from that quote, it is a toy that kids ride on to control a robot. That robot draws on the floor while other robots interact with it using AI. This is all made to “embellish” the child’s creative work.

To control the robot, a child rides on a Fischer Price Smart Cycle. The factory electronics were replaced with an ATMEGA168. A wireless transmitter connects to the robot, which is also powered by an ATMEGA168. While one robot is controlled by the child, the others are packed with sensors to allow them to interact with it. They use touch, ultrasonic ping detectors, and IR line detectors. You can see it all in action in the video summary.

The design is interesting, everything is bright and colorful, and the shark fins on the robots are a nice touch. We have to wonder though, with a toy to ride on, a robot to control, and 3 other robots to watch in wonder, is the child going to be too distracted to be very creative?

15 thoughts on “M-CLE: Hacked Smart Cycle

  1. Thats interesting but try to get a halfway creative child to sit back seat to 4 robots drawing on the kitchen floor. you will soon find them disassembled and markings on your walls.

    +1 for the work
    -1 for the idea

  2. Now just make it adult size and connect to the robots from the other side of the globe.

    (I agree with kyle, real kids touch things with their hands, I recall my first electric car had 3 wheels, and I am pretty sure it started with 4 ;). I was 3 or 4 years old and I must have wanted to get at that motor :) )

  3. Provided said child is old enough, and not allowed to play ONLY with robuts, then sure. Make sure they have plenty of legos (or cardboard boxes) to offset creativity, and all is well.

  4. Not that I’m not fully impressed with the little entire project, but art? I’m guessing this is the kind of guy that spills his coffee and spends the next hour searching for meaning the splatter… Seriously, though, the concept of having a child perform an activity with autonomous helper bots is extremely cool.

  5. Nice work; I like the general concept too. As for the tagline…
    *
    ” a physical learning environment in which synergistic artificial intelligence through the use of robots(creative agents) is employed to embellish the creativity of the child”
    *
    …geez. Who the hell comes up with this stuff :/

  6. …allows child to be the beholder of its meaning. good grief, this guy should have his geek credentials revoked for all that psychobabble. The first thing on any kids mind given four motorized devices in an enclosed area would be collisions.
    +1 for the work
    -2 for the idea

    1. Project Development Narrative
      By Karan Kamdar – Author of this project
      karan@1martianway.com
      https://1martianway.com

      When speaking in terms of a personal project development experience, I would cherish this project as one of the most fruitful and amazing of all learning endevedors that I have undertaken in my academic career till now. I don’t exactly recollect how I went about conceptualizing the idea for this project. What I do recollect though are two things – the first being that of having a lot of personal support and embellishment from my committee members and second being the fact that this project was both ideated, designed, tested and demonstrated in an extremely short amount of time. The project realization was also not one without obstacles or uncertainties. In fact, given the number of unknowns that this project begged I feel fortunate enough to realize it in any given form.

      The first of these unknowns was to technically realize a toy bike as an embodied form of input to the system. With respect to the Fischer Price Smart Cycle Physical Learning System, I was uncertain whether the system could be tampered with in any given form. Fortunately, the toy’s assembly was straight-forward. A set of screws that allowed the bike to be assembled and dissambled along its cross section was the key to modify the bike. However, this was only the first step. The second step was to reverse engineer every connection that went in and out of the toy’s microcontroller circuit and match these connections with my custom circuit. It was an anxious moment to see what the mechanism was to steer the bike – it happened to be a simple potentiometer. It was more than an anxious moment to see what the mechanism was to get pedal acceleration data – it happened to be a simple IR sensor package that encoded the rotations. I was so amazed and excited with this knowledge that I worked straight 18 hours from there to finish the integration of the bike with my microcontroller. The risk had paid off, I had saved valuable time and I had a ready to demo embodied input to the system.

      However, I knew that I should keep up the good work and not slack off since this was only the first part of the project. I still had to begin work on constructing my four creative agents. Before starting work on them however, I recaptured some of the lessons from my earlier project. Robotic constructions require hardware and build time and they require software intelligence too. The former of these requires a combination of building your own custom constructions from scratch and ordering specific parts from specific vendors which have their own order processing and shipping times. The latter of these requires a lot of patient thinking and negotiation with your computer given hangups, crashes, power supply etc. Also there is always the case of getting stuck in a debug cycle where you just don’t know what piece of code has gone wrong.

      As regards to the hardware material for my project, I took the decision of using Expanded PVC (also called as rigid or foam PVC). The primary advantage of this material is that it has some great features – it’s strong, tough yet easy to cut and drill, non-conductive and aesthetically very appealing. However, the main disadvantage of it (and one that I had entirely not anticipated) is the fact that it is available in very limited amounts in colors other than black, white, gray, yellow and blue. Since I had color coded my agents in red, green, blue and black, the primary colors that were missing from my PVC collection were red and green and I needed to have these colors to keep the aesthetic of my project consistent (something that I realized is equally important other than the sole functioning of the project). I did call up several PVC vendors without success, finally at the 16th try I managed to personally request a vendor to have these colors shipped to me as soon as possible and my aesthetic was then complete.

      However, it was not just the bike and the aesthetic that I had to worry about.

      Karan Kamdar, [26.04.20 23:53]
      Several problems surfaced while just building the electronics and agent structure. With regards to electronics, there was a recurring problem of testing the performance of the agent in physical space using on-board rechargeable batteries. Since the drain on the batteries was primarily a function of how well I had written the code to efficiently utilize the power hungry ping, IR sensors and servos, there were multiple times when I had to neatly synchronize battery recharge times with code reconstruction and testing. Moreover, although I had relied on the quick wireless method of uploading code to the agents, there were many times when the TX / RX on the controller-Xbee interface would just halt. Thereby part of the code would get uploaded to the agents and I could not send them the reset command to reset their transistors. In this case, I had to disassemble the agents to the lower deck, take out the microcontroller, serially reprogram it, fit it back into the circuit and then go for wireless upload again.

      With regards to the agent structure, I guess there were two problems that I was worried about. The first was governed by the need of minimizing the space occupied by the agent in the design space. Since I had a 6 feet X 6 feet space to operate within, I had roughly calculated a base diameter not exceeding 7 inches. Within these 7 inches, I had to fit two drive servos, a ‘centered’ marker assembly (overlapping which was the screw to tighten one of the two skids that allowed the agent to be supported on two wheels), the microcontroller circuit, feelers – the arrangement of which did take some optimization. One of the foundational decisions though was that of adding the Ping sensor and its mounting bracket for which I had zero room left on the base deck. So I jig-sawed a quick piece of expanded PVC to extend the base deck, the concern in mind being if the weight of the front servo and ping sensor assembly would be supported adequately by this small piece which was already extending the design requirement of 7 inches. Fortunately, that decision turned out to be the best one that I took since during actual runs, the performance with feelers alone would only be satisfactory. Frequent collisions would be so disturbing that the agents would be more busy in conflict negotiation that actual creative work. Adding the ping sensor assembly that allowed the agents to keep a distance of 6 inches between them was thus very crucial. The second of the problems with respect to the agent structure was the agent’s center of gravity being proportional to the number of decks installed. I was concerned of the agent tipping over if I loaded the second deck with batteries and then the third deck with the equally important shark fin that allowed for a sense of direction to be attributed to the movement of the agent. Fortunately, the combined weight on the servos was well distributed and my agents were well balanced and composed for their creative act.

      Wow!…. So many problems just come along your way and keep testing you until the very end. But these problems and the unique solutions that we discover for them is what a learning experience is finally all about. And many times there are important things that have happened, ones that you just don’t recollect while documenting your experiences. In my case, the above subjective description is thus only a subset of the sheer number of do-it-yourself, try, fail and succeed sort of things that happened during my time at ACE. Its been such a wonderful, wonderful learning experience that a symbolic mode of documenting them indeed seems vicarious!

      I feel a sense of tremendous satisfaction with the completion of this thesis and project and greatly acknowledge the personal embellishment of all my committee members. Even though I failed too many times, all those failures were critical to my learning experience. It was the process and not the end result that mattered. This process has tought me important lessons and skills and I look forward to the future with a deep sense of gratitude and a positive mindset.

      Thankyou again to my committee and all those who have supported my work.

  7. Project Development Narrative
    By Karan Kamdar – Author of this project
    karan@1martianway.com

    When speaking in terms of a personal project development experience, I would cherish this project as one of the most fruitful and amazing of all learning endevedors that I have undertaken in my academic career till now. I don’t exactly recollect how I went about conceptualizing the idea for this project. What I do recollect though are two things – the first being that of having a lot of personal support and embellishment from my committee members and second being the fact that this project was both ideated, designed, tested and demonstrated in an extremely short amount of time. The project realization was also not one without obstacles or uncertainties. In fact, given the number of unknowns that this project begged I feel fortunate enough to realize it in any given form.

    The first of these unknowns was to technically realize a toy bike as an embodied form of input to the system. With respect to the Fischer Price Smart Cycle Physical Learning System, I was uncertain whether the system could be tampered with in any given form. Fortunately, the toy’s assembly was straight-forward. A set of screws that allowed the bike to be assembled and dissambled along its cross section was the key to modify the bike. However, this was only the first step. The second step was to reverse engineer every connection that went in and out of the toy’s microcontroller circuit and match these connections with my custom circuit. It was an anxious moment to see what the mechanism was to steer the bike – it happened to be a simple potentiometer. It was more than an anxious moment to see what the mechanism was to get pedal acceleration data – it happened to be a simple IR sensor package that encoded the rotations. I was so amazed and excited with this knowledge that I worked straight 18 hours from there to finish the integration of the bike with my microcontroller. The risk had paid off, I had saved valuable time and I had a ready to demo embodied input to the system.

    However, I knew that I should keep up the good work and not slack off since this was only the first part of the project. I still had to begin work on constructing my four creative agents. Before starting work on them however, I recaptured some of the lessons from my earlier project. Robotic constructions require hardware and build time and they require software intelligence too. The former of these requires a combination of building your own custom constructions from scratch and ordering specific parts from specific vendors which have their own order processing and shipping times. The latter of these requires a lot of patient thinking and negotiation with your computer given hangups, crashes, power supply etc. Also there is always the case of getting stuck in a debug cycle where you just don’t know what piece of code has gone wrong.

    As regards to the hardware material for my project, I took the decision of using Expanded PVC (also called as rigid or foam PVC). The primary advantage of this material is that it has some great features – it’s strong, tough yet easy to cut and drill, non-conductive and aesthetically very appealing. However, the main disadvantage of it (and one that I had entirely not anticipated) is the fact that it is available in very limited amounts in colors other than black, white, gray, yellow and blue. Since I had color coded my agents in red, green, blue and black, the primary colors that were missing from my PVC collection were red and green and I needed to have these colors to keep the aesthetic of my project consistent (something that I realized is equally important other than the sole functioning of the project). I did call up several PVC vendors without success, finally at the 16th try I managed to personally request a vendor to have these colors shipped to me as soon as possible and my aesthetic was then complete.

    However, it was not just the bike and the aesthetic that I had to worry about. Several problems surfaced while just building the electronics and agent structure. With regards to electronics, there was a recurring problem of testing the performance of the agent in physical space using on-board rechargeable batteries. Since the drain on the batteries was primarily a function of how well I had written the code to efficiently utilize the power hungry ping, IR sensors and servos, there were multiple times when I had to neatly synchronize battery recharge times with code reconstruction and testing. Moreover, although I had relied on the quick wireless method of uploading code to the agents, there were many times when the TX / RX on the controller-Xbee interface would just halt. Thereby part of the code would get uploaded to the agents and I could not send them the reset command to reset their transistors. In this case, I had to disassemble the agents to the lower deck, take out the microcontroller, serially reprogram it, fit it back into the circuit and then go for wireless upload again.

    With regards to the agent structure, I guess there were two problems that I was worried about. The first was governed by the need of minimizing the space occupied by the agent in the design space. Since I had a 6 feet X 6 feet space to operate within, I had roughly calculated a base diameter not exceeding 7 inches. Within these 7 inches, I had to fit two drive servos, a ‘centered’ marker assembly (overlapping which was the screw to tighten one of the two skids that allowed the agent to be supported on two wheels), the microcontroller circuit, feelers – the arrangement of which did take some optimization. One of the foundational decisions though was that of adding the Ping sensor and its mounting bracket for which I had zero room left on the base deck. So I jig-sawed a quick piece of expanded PVC to extend the base deck, the concern in mind being if the weight of the front servo and ping sensor assembly would be supported adequately by this small piece which was already extending the design requirement of 7 inches. Fortunately, that decision turned out to be the best one that I took since during actual runs, the performance with feelers alone would only be satisfactory. Frequent collisions would be so disturbing that the agents would be more busy in conflict negotiation that actual creative work. Adding the ping sensor assembly that allowed the agents to keep a distance of 6 inches between them was thus very crucial. The second of the problems with respect to the agent structure was the agent’s center of gravity being proportional to the number of decks installed. I was concerned of the agent tipping over if I loaded the second deck with batteries and then the third deck with the equally important shark fin that allowed for a sense of direction to be attributed to the movement of the agent. Fortunately, the combined weight on the servos was well distributed and my agents were well balanced and composed for their creative act.

    Wow!…. So many problems just come along your way and keep testing you until the very end. But these problems and the unique solutions that we discover for them is what a learning experience is finally all about. And many times there are important things that have happened, ones that you just don’t recollect while documenting your experiences. In my case, the above subjective description is thus only a subset of the sheer number of do-it-yourself, try, fail and succeed sort of things that happened during my time at ACE. Its been such a wonderful, wonderful learning experience that a symbolic mode of documenting them indeed seems vicarious!

    I feel a sense of tremendous satisfaction with the completion of this thesis and project and greatly acknowledge the personal embellishment of all my committee members. Even though I failed too many times, all those failures were critical to my learning experience. It was the process and not the end result that mattered. This process has tought me important lessons and skills and I look forward to the future with a deep sense of gratitude and a positive mindset. Thankyou again to my committee and all those who have supported my work.

  8. Several problems surfaced while just building the electronics and agent structure. With regards to electronics, there was a recurring problem of testing the performance of the agent in physical space using on-board rechargeable batteries. Since the drain on the batteries was primarily a function of how well I had written the code to efficiently utilize the power hungry ping, IR sensors and servos, there were multiple times when I had to neatly synchronize battery recharge times with code reconstruction and testing. Moreover, although I had relied on the quick wireless method of uploading code to the agents, there were many times when the TX / RX on the controller-Xbee interface would just halt. Thereby part of the code would get uploaded to the agents and I could not send them the reset command to reset their transistors. In this case, I had to disassemble the agents to the lower deck, take out the microcontroller, serially reprogram it, fit it back into the circuit and then go for wireless upload again.

    With regards to the agent structure, I guess there were two problems that I was worried about. The first was governed by the need of minimizing the space occupied by the agent in the design space. Since I had a 6 feet X 6 feet space to operate within, I had roughly calculated a base diameter not exceeding 7 inches. Within these 7 inches, I had to fit two drive servos, a ‘centered’ marker assembly (overlapping which was the screw to tighten one of the two skids that allowed the agent to be supported on two wheels), the microcontroller circuit, feelers – the arrangement of which did take some optimization. One of the foundational decisions though was that of adding the Ping sensor and its mounting bracket for which I had zero room left on the base deck. So I jig-sawed a quick piece of expanded PVC to extend the base deck, the concern in mind being if the weight of the front servo and ping sensor assembly would be supported adequately by this small piece which was already extending the design requirement of 7 inches. Fortunately, that decision turned out to be the best one that I took since during actual runs, the performance with feelers alone would only be satisfactory. Frequent collisions would be so disturbing that the agents would be more busy in conflict negotiation that actual creative work. Adding the ping sensor assembly that allowed the agents to keep a distance of 6 inches between them was thus very crucial. The second of the problems with respect to the agent structure was the agent’s center of gravity being proportional to the number of decks installed. I was concerned of the agent tipping over if I loaded the second deck with batteries and then the third deck with the equally important shark fin that allowed for a sense of direction to be attributed to the movement of the agent. Fortunately, the combined weight on the servos was well distributed and my agents were well balanced and composed for their creative act.

    Wow!…. So many problems just come along your way and keep testing you until the very end. But these problems and the unique solutions that we discover for them is what a learning experience is finally all about. And many times there are important things that have happened, ones that you just don’t recollect while documenting your experiences. In my case, the above subjective description is thus only a subset of the sheer number of do-it-yourself, try, fail and succeed sort of things that happened during my time at ACE. Its been such a wonderful, wonderful learning experience that a symbolic mode of documenting them indeed seems vicarious!

    I feel a sense of tremendous satisfaction with the completion of this thesis and project and greatly acknowledge the personal embellishment of all my committee members. Even though I failed too many times, all those failures were critical to my learning experience. It was the process and not the end result that mattered. This process has tought me important lessons and skills and I look forward to the future with a deep sense of gratitude and a positive mindset.

    Thankyou again to my committee and all those who have supported my work.

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