OnQ

Intern Hackathon Part 3: Stand up for this robot

Oct 18, 2016

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Are you sitting comfortably, and with good posture? I hope so, because blog number three on Qualcomm HackMobile is about to begin. We’ve been speaking to the talented participants of our intern hackathon, and getting the inside story on the projects they’ve created.  

The 2016 HackMobile challenge was to create “Something Mobile” in just 16 hours. Four teams chose to use the DragonBoard 410c, but Team Fit Turtle took things one step further, integrating it with a Kinect touting TurtleBot for movement and computer vision! The resulting robot itself is Fit Turtle, designed to roam around an office, intent on finding poor posture to correct.

The members of team ‘Fit Turtle’ are Keen Sung, Tiago Muck, Martin Marshalek and Andy Shih. We caught up with Keen and Martin to talk about their project, and if you want specific information on the Fit Turtle project and how they pulled it together, please visit the projects page on QDN for all the details.

Tell us a little about yourselves and your team. How did you become interested in participating in the hack?

Keen: I am a PhD student in Computer Science at UMass Amherst, where I’m trying to see whether metadata from mobile devices are susceptible to data-mining, and then come up with techniques to defend against that. Having spent most of my time doing data analysis and working on small software projects, I wanted a chance to get hands-on with hardware. HackMobile provided equipment, including the DragonBoard 410c, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me.

Martin: I am a senior at Stevens Institute of Technology pursuing my B.E. in Electrical Engineering with a concentration in Electronics and Embedded Systems. I was very excited for HackMobile, as it presented a great opportunity to work with some of the very talented interns working at Qualcomm. It also provided great exposure to technologies like the Turtlebot and DragonBoard 410c. As I am a regional intern, it was great to get a chance to visit the main offices in San Diego.

When you got your hands on the DragonBoard 410c, what was the first idea that came to mind? What sort of project did you want to work on?

Keen: I wanted to use as much hardware as I could that was compatible with the DragonBoard 410c. Our team was lucky enough to work with a TurtleBot, which was a differential wheeled robot with a Kinect mounted on it. I had an idea to use the Kinect to detect different postures in humans in order to correct exercise form and posture. The bot could roam around to detect posture from different angles, or look for people to analyze. We started with basic standing posture, both because it was the most important, and the easiest to implement. This turned out to be all we had time to do. Having spent the past few months trying to improve my own posture, I knew a lot of the fundamental principles from a biomechanical perspective.

Martin: Keen’s idea for monitoring posture using the Turtlebot was very interesting and unique, and I was very excited to see how well the DragonBoard 410c could be used for the computer vision and analysis tasks required for the project.

How much did you prepare in advance of the hack for working with the DragonBoard 410c?

Keen: Other than thinking about the possibilities of using the TurtleBot, we did not prepare at all before the hack. In fact, we didn’t know each other until we met at the event.

Martin: I’ve worked with a similar Qualcomm-based single board computer/SBC (the Inforce 6410Plus) on my internship, which prepared me for interfacing with and using the DragonBoard 410c. Otherwise, as Keen said, there was no prior preparation for the hack.

What surprised you the most about the features/functionality of the DragonBoard 410c?

Keen: I was surprised by the graphics processing power of it. The Adreno™ GPU can add a lot of potential to any application, including Fit Turtle, which requires any kind of computer vision or camera processing. We didn’t get a chance to use the GPS to a great extent, but on-board GPS would also be very useful for any kind of robotics application.

Do you think of yourself as a developer or maker? Maybe both?

Keen: I think of myself as a developer and a hacker. This hackathon was the first opportunity I had to really “make” something, but I enjoy tinkering with new devices and platforms, and I think that’s what drove me to learn how to use the DragonBoard 410c and debug the numerous issues that come with working with hardware.

Martin: I would consider myself a maker for sure because I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with new software and hardware. My skills and areas of interest are definitely driven by wanting to do something practical with hardware and software tools and “make” something out of it.

Are you using Android, Linux, or Windows 10 with your project?

Keen: We used Robot Operating System (Linux) to control the bot, and Windows Kinect SDK to process the Kinect input.

In thinking about your next project with the DragonBoard 410c, what features/functionality of the board do you plan to use?

Keen: Definitely the GPS and more of the GPU. Given the small form factor of the DragonBoard 410c, I think it’d be cool to work with something like the Micro Rover and do basic positioning using the GPS.

And, how would you categorize your next DragonBoard 410c project? For instance, will it be for use with the Smart Home type of project or some other use? (A general answer is fine - we're not expecting you to give away any secrets!)

Keen: Also a robotics project. DragonBoard 410c is well suited for building portable robots, so I think there is a lot of untapped potential for a maker board like this.

What advice would you give to someone who has never used the DragonBoard 410c before? What would you recommend for that person to get started on their own projects?

Keen: Start with a basic idea, and work up from there. Prototype and test early and often. The DragonBoard 410c is as user-friendly as a board this customizable can be, so just install a platform like robot operating system and tinker with the examples.

Martin: Definitely read up and understand some basic Linux concepts. The power of the DragonBoard 410c and many other SBCs is that they run a full Linux environment, and all of the power that comes with the Linux ecosystem.

What does the phrase "Internet of Things" mean to you? How does it apply to your project(s) with the DragonBoard 410c?

Keen: More and more, the everyday things in our life that typically require electricity will become connected via wireless internet. The prototype we created was not quite IoT, because processing was done on-board, and there wasn’t much communication between Fit Turtle and a server or other device. However, this is the natural next step to the project. Fit Turtle should be able to send data back to a server for Quantified Self purposes, as well as remain updated with training plans, schedules, etc. Devices like the DragonBoard 410c would allow for our physical world to become more connected.

Martin: At its core, the Internet of Things is about making even the simplest parts of our lives “smart,” even including the way we sit and stand (posture). That’s the real power of SBCs like the DragonBoard 410c, in that so many people now have access to an incredibly powerful embedded platform to develop and prototype the next generation of smart devices.

Be sure to pay a visit to Qualcomm Developer Network for more information on the DragonBoard 410c.