Robotics Kit / Emulation


Is there a small testing car kit in planning with sensors etc. for testing the learned in live situations? I know i could build it myself or try using some prebuilt ones, but it would be nicer using a tailor-made which has the focus on the right things according to the lessons in this course.

If not, a simulated environment would be nice, too. We could upload our programmed car for testing, just like a simulated Darpa Grand Challenge ;)

Two links taken from the last A.I. Course which could be used to implement and test some filters:
OpenNero and AIChallenge

asked 21 Feb '12, 17:43

Stefan%20Gantner-1's gravatar image

Stefan Gantn...

accept rate: 50%

edited 01 Mar '12, 08:46

jimgb-2's gravatar image


23 Answers:

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This is a cheap and well documented project - Neural network controlled self-driving (RC) car, inspired by ML-class.

Link to authors blog post with construction details, schematics and code can be found here: How David Singleton built a neural network controlled self-driving (RC) car!

Link to his G+ post and comments

The source code is open source and available on github.

Video of car in action: Youtube link

The system consists of:

  • Android phone — mounted on the car, captures video frames of the road
    ahead using its built-in camera at ~15
    fps. An app running on the phone
    connects to a server running on a
    laptop computer via wifi and streams
    176x144 grayscale video frames across
    the connection.

  • Computer — runs a little Java app called "Driver" which acts as both a
    TCP server, receiving streamed image
    frames from the phone and a user
    interface allowing a human driver to
    control the car with the cursor keys
    or mouse. In record mode, the video
    frames are saved to disk, labelled
    with the current control input coming
    from the human driver. The neural
    network is trained using these
    labelled frames in a separate
    environment on the computer. Trained
    parameters are saved out to files
    which are in turn read by the Driver
    app... which in auto mode can feed
    incoming video frames directly to the
    neural network and steer according to
    its predictions, by sending
    instructions over a serial interface
    connected to an...

  • Arduino Uno — connected to the computer via USB and hacked to connect
    to and simulate keypresses on the
    car's radio controller PCB


answered 22 Feb '12, 11:58

Gundega's gravatar image

Gundega ♦♦

edited 22 Feb '12, 11:58

This is a great idea. It is much more fun to build something that actually moves then a simulation.

The beauty of this approach is that most people already own smartphones and computers. You just need the bot. It is much more fun to develop on a pc then embedded hardware.

Instead of a cheap radio controlled car, you could also use an Arduino based bot or a lego mindstorms based bot. The computer could control a Mindstorm's bot by Bluetooth or the Arduino bot by whatever communications you add (like bluetooth or wi-fi).

Has anyone done video streaming from an iPhone to a Mac? Or is there a cheap Android phone that would be good for this that can be purchased without a phone plan?

(25 Feb '12, 20:36)

Andrew Rosen...

Andrew%20Rosenblum-1's gravatar image

I wonder with a pi rasperry the remote computer should be necessary anymore, even though it requires 3.5 Watt of power. I mean for the processing... if 700 Mhz ARM is enough, it could be done right on the car.

(01 Mar '12, 08:55)


stivlo's gravatar image


I like the idea of a simulated Grand Challenge/competition. Maybe using ROS?

For those who aren't familiar with ROS - it's an open source robotic operating system developed at Stanford/Willow Garage that has good visualization support (rviz) and integrates well with existing simulators (player/stage/gazebo).


answered 21 Feb '12, 18:03

William%20Greene-1's gravatar image

William Gree...

edited 22 Feb '12, 08:39

Another vote for ROS (Robot Operating System) as a software basis :) It is a software framework, which supports a lot of hardware platforms (also a lot of cameras, laser scanners and so on) and has a lot of things already implemented. Everything is open source and the community is very friendly.


answered 22 Feb '12, 04:15

Vladimir%20Haltakov-1's gravatar image

Vladimir Hal...

I think a simulated environment would be the best way to go. It avoids having to buy expensive hardware (or any hardware at all) and would be easy to test. I think for Junior, the Stanford team built software that could run on the car or that could run in a simulation. Check out a maze simulation for Junior.

Or maybe we should all just pitch in $10 to start our own autonomous vehicle.


answered 22 Feb '12, 11:49

Matt%20Bradley's gravatar image

Matt Bradley

edited 22 Feb '12, 11:50

Oh yes, a robot simulator would be good. After having done the particle filter for the AI class, I've thought about that, that would make a good side project (and then real life kicked in, of course). Perhaps we should start a robot simulator toolkit project?

(22 Feb '12, 16:27)

Martin J. La...

Martin%20J.%20Laubach's gravatar image

AWESOME video! Unfortunately, I assume that software is not open source? Great to see the path planner, mapping, and car controller working...

(01 Mar '12, 12:47)

George Brind...

George%20Brindeiro's gravatar image

I'm planning on building a small car using the Arduino microcontroller. There's some good tutorials out there on creating robots with the Arduino. I already had the Arduino, but had to get everything else (soldering gun, solder, breadboard, etc). It came out to about $60.00.

There's also LEGO Mindstorms, which is really fun. I built a line following robot with those in High School. Probably a bit more expensive, though.

I'd be interested in seeing if there was some sort of simulated environment as well!


answered 21 Feb '12, 17:59

naiyt's gravatar image


Another simulator that could be used is MORSE. It is an open robotics simulator based on Blender Game Engine. And you can use different middleware as ROS and YARP to control the robot in the simulator.


answered 22 Feb '12, 16:01

dgerod's gravatar image

16928 is a new item from Carnegie Mellon. Here was the notice on the Alice mailing list from one of the developers.

Tom Lauwers
With the blessing of Don and Wanda, we have created Finch Dreams, a
program for controlling the Finch robot, based heavily on Alice 2.2.
Finch Dreams lets you do everything you can do with Alice 2.2, and
adds support for the Finch, a robot designed at CMU for CS education.
The Finch is a $99 USB-tethered and powered robot with light sensors,
obstacle sensors, a temperature sensor, and a 3-axis accelerometer; it
was initially designed for introductory CS education at the high
school and college level and has support for Java, Python, VB, C++,
Scala, Processing, Matlab, and soon Logo and Javascript.

With Finch Dreams you can write programs that control the Finch and
also that use the Finch's sensors to control animations in Finch
Dreams (an example program in Finch Dreams uses the Finch's
accelerometer to control a bowling ball, sort of like a Wii-mote,
another uses the Finch's light sensors to control the amount of light
in the scene).

We currently have a stable version working under Windows, and will
shortly be launching a beta version for the Mac. You can download and
run it (even without a Finch) at:


answered 08 Mar '12, 21:05

Bastetswarrior's gravatar image


Thank you for this information!

(09 Mar '12, 02:55)

Gundega ♦♦

Gundega's gravatar image

I have been independently working on an extremely amateur robotics project at home. I have come to the conclusion that for the complete newbie, a complete kit is the only way to start. I would suggest the polulu for that purpose.

I have bought an Arduino, and I'm attempting to construct a robot based on this using the Magician chassis and a couple of range-finders. It turns out, I suck at construction :). I will be buying some meccano soon to get around that particular problem :)


answered 22 Feb '12, 04:57

Tennessee%20Leeuwenburg's gravatar image

Tennessee Le...

After finishing ai-class last fall I've been searching for a while to find a cool robot development platform. I came across four interesting products... unfortunately none of them have an Ackermann steering geometry like a car, but they seem well-suited for home experiments related to this class. Maybe you want to have a look:

  • TurtleBot by Willow Garage: iRobot Create + Netbook + Kinect + ROS, approx. 1200 USD
  • Bilibot by Garrbotics: iRobot Create + Mini-ITX + Kinect + Gripper + ROS, approx. 1200 USD
  • XV-11 by Neato Robotics: Vacuum Cleaner with onboard laser scanner, approx. 400 USD
  • SRV-1 by Surveyor: small tracked robot + active vision ranging (camera + laser pointer), approx. 500 USD

Update: Here is an interesting slide set from a Microsoft programmer regarding a "Virtual Darpa Grand Challenge"


answered 25 Feb '12, 21:23

Christoph%20Soehnel-1's gravatar image

Christoph So...

edited 25 Feb '12, 21:29

There is an robotics development platform for a small self-driving car out there, just found it here. But it is incredible expensive. Maybe it could be our platform if it was cheaper.


answered 01 Mar '12, 18:58

Christoph%20Soehnel-1's gravatar image

Christoph So...

edited 01 Mar '12, 18:58

What if it were open source? What if it were built by our community? What if it were cheaper? Check this topic out:

(01 Mar '12, 19:18)

George Brind...

George%20Brindeiro's gravatar image

These are the kind of cool things that I was hoping to find in this forum

(03 Mar '12, 11:35)

Mike Collins

Mike%20Collins's gravatar image
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Asked: 21 Feb '12, 17:43

Seen: 3,363 times

Last updated: 09 Mar '12, 02:55