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Arduino-compatible robot dev kit includes RPi 3 and Tinker Board add-ons

Jun 30, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 1,534 views
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Husarion unveiled an Arduino-ready “Core2” robotics board for web based prototyping, plus a Linux-ready “Core2-ROS” that adds an RPi 3 or Tinker Board.

San Francisco based robotics firm Husarion, which has previously launched an industrial picker robot called the RoboCore, has gone to Crowd Supply to pitch a new Husarion Core2 prototyping platform for the robotics maker community. The $89 Cortex-M4 based Core2 controller board, which includes an ESP32 WiFi adapter, is also available in a version that runs Linux and Robot Operating System called the Core2-ROS. The ROS version replaces the ESP32 with a WiFi-ready Raspberry Pi 3 or Asus Tinker Board SBC.

Core2 (left) and Core2-ROS
(click image to enlarge)

The $99 ROS version, which is designed for building higher end autonomous robots, lets you add your own RPi 3 or Tinker, or you can purchase them for $40 and $60, respectively. Both the Core2 and Core2-ROS are supported with a free Husarion cloud platform and web-based development tools built around an open source, RTOS-based “hFramework” set of API libraries (see farther below).

The Core2 and Core2-ROS can be purchased with Core2brick, Core2block, and Servo Controller accessory kits. The $39 Core2brick lets you connect to a Lego Mindstorms robot kit, thereby giving your Mindstorms robot a smarter brain. (A similar strategy was used by a Kickstarter backed EVB project that instead adds a BeagleBone Black based kit.) The Core2brick adds Lego-ready 10x cables, 2x acrylic plates, and other items.

Core2brick on the left with 1) battery pack, 2) 4x Lego motor, 3) 6x Lego sensor, 4) adapters, and 5) cables; Core2block and its MakeBlock interface cables at the right
(click images to enlarge)

The $39 Core2block lets you instead connect to the Arduino based Makeblock robotics kit. The Core2block includes adapters to connect Makeblock sensors and motors, two acrylic plates, and more. The $24 Servo Controller kit lets you add 12 more RC servos. Up to 4x Servo Controllers can connect to each Core2 hSensor port, letting you control up to 102 servos from one board.

Servo Controller with 1) servo outputs, 2) LEDs, 3) jumper, 4) UART, and 5) power input at left, and ROSBot robot at right
(click images to enlarge)

In addition, Husarion is selling an assembled ROSbot for $1,290 that includes a Core2-ROS with Tinker Board. The robot integrates 4x DC motor with encoders and wheels, a metal chassis, a battery pack for 18650 batteries, a camera, a WiFi card, 4x distance sensors from Sharp, and “RPLIDAR A2 360°, IMU (MPU-9250).”

Inside the Core2

The Husarion Core2 board is built around an STM32F4 SoC with a 32-bit, 168MHz Cortex-M4, 192 KB RAM, and 1MB flash. The 94 x 85 x 14mm board integrates a microSD slot and a wireless (hRPi) connector that hooks up either to the ESP32 module or the Raspberry Pi or Tinker Board, depending on the model.

The Core2 features a USB host port, micro-USB serial port with FTDI, a debug port, and an up to 1Mbps CAN interface. Other features include 4x motor (hMot) ports with quadrature encoder inputs, 6x servo (hServo) ports with DC/DC converter with selectable output voltage, and 6x sensor ports: 4x GPIO, ADC, I2C/USART, external interrupt, and 5V output.

Core2 detail view (left) and pinout
(click images to enlarge)

An hExt extension header provides 12x GPIO, 7x ADC, SPI, I2C, UART, 2x external interrupts, 5V and Vin output. The board has a 6-16V power input with overvoltage, overcurrent and reverse polarity protection.

Just as the Raspberry Pi 3 or Intel Joule boards can work with the Arduino-ready controller board on the TurtleBot 3, the RPi 3 or Tinker Board can be hooked up to the Core2 for greater performance and ROS capabilities on the Core2-ROS. The One robot kit from Thecorpora similarly offers both an Raspberry Pi 3 and an Arduino-based “Qboard” controller board.

The Raspberry Pi 3 needs no introduction, and the Tinker Board — one of the highest profile hacker board introductions of 2017 — is pretty straightforward since it’s a close clone of the RPi 3. The main difference is that it runs a Debian Linux-based TinkerOS on a quad-core, Cortex-17 Rockchip RK3288. The SoC is only 32-bit instead of 64-bit, but it’s claimed to be almost twice as fast as the RPi 3’s Broadcom SoC, and offers a more powerful Mali T760 GPU. The Tinker Board also has twice the RAM of the RPi 3 at 2GB, and it advances to a Gigabit Ethernet port.

hFramework and ROS

The open source Core2 hFramework libraries abstract the control of interfaces such as motors, servos, encoders, and sensors, using DMA channels and interrupts for communication. The board also works with Arduino libraries. “The Arduino compatibility layer uses the hFramework API, so CORE2 peripherals are used in a very efficient way,” says Husarion.

The cloud-based, open source Web IDE SDK includes HTML5, CSS, and built-in WebRTC support. The SSL-protected cloud service offers various robot templates, and lets you assign different access rights to share your work with others. There’s also a separate offline SDK that can be integrated with other IDEs. Alternatively, you can install a Husarion extension to Visual Studio.

The ROS version adds a “dedicated Linux image with ready-to-use ROS packets and libraries,” says Husarion. Tutorials are also offered for ROS and hFramework. There is no indication that any of the Core2 hardware is open source, however.

Further information

The Husarion Core2 robot kit is available through Aug. 6 on Crowd Supply for $89 with ESP32 module, and the Core2-ROS goes for $99, not including the RPi 3 or Tinker Board. (See other prices above). Everything ships in September except for the Sensor Controller and ROSBot, which ship in October. More information may be found on the Husarion Core 2 Crowd Supply page and the Husarion website.

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