Turtle Rover’s plans for 2019

New year… New us? It’s hard to tell. Turtle Rover has already been quite an adventure for us. We’ve made some mistakes, but more importantly, we’ve also made a lot of good ones. 2018 was the first operational year of Turtle Rover and it was a time full of learning new stuff and conducting business. We had had a general idea where we wanted to be at the end of 2018, but calling it a plan would be a stretch. Everything started crystalizing along the way and we enter 2019 with a pretty clear view of what needs to be done. In this post, we’d like to share these plans with you.

ROS is going to be major for us

ROS is a tremendous tool for robotics developers and makes creating stuff (and also using code made by others) way easier and quicker. Turtle Rover kind of serves the same purpose like ROS, but on the hardware part. They both compliment each other and making ROS a vanilla feature of our platform was only a matter of time. It’s quite a funny story how we decided to make that decision. TurtleOS, our stock OS, which is a modified Raspbian, allows the user to code some pretty intricate and sweet stuff. However, it demands advanced knowledge of coding and, although not as tedious as writing your own firmware, still wasn’t the easiest to get a hold of. ROS has became a necessity over time, and we fully realized that, when our very own engineers started demanding it on Turtle Rovers and even installing it on the robots themselves. And if your engineers, people who basically make your product, demand some software, there’s quite a big possibility they either need it for work, or they think it’s going to be a game changer. It has turned out to be both for us. Lately, a tutorial on installing ROS on Turtle Rover has been published on our forum, and there’s also a pre-release of our software having ROS by default (it will be released and used as vanilla firmware after some testing, which is soon).

More Turtle Rover parts will be 3D printable

Concept of the new, fully 3D printable wheel

3D printing’s a great technology. It’s one of the things that basically allow us to operate — quite a lot of Turtle Rover parts are made using good old Prusa printers. As a matter of fact, we’ve just sent a tweet of freshly printed motor caps. And for a few reasons, 3D printing will be utilized by us even more this year. Firstly, it means that we’re cutting costs. Milling solid aluminum is costly, that’s no secret. Secondly, ordering specifically and quite precisely milled aluminum blocks and receiving them from abroad takes a lot of time. Thirdly, it’d be easier for us and for TR users to experiment and modify the design, which would make adjusting Turtle Rover’s wheels to one’s needs. Sure, plastic is not as durable as metal, but it’s going to be sturdy enough for a vast majority of uses. We’ve designed some prototypes already. Ah, let’s not forget about people ordering Turtle Rover Maker Kits. They will be able to make whole wheels (aside from tires) by themselves. That’s also another step towards releasing the entirety of Turtle Rover as a 3D printable machine. Battery, electronics and WiFi compartments will be printed, too (and they’ll be in vanilla rovers sooner than wheels). It’s also possible that we’ll be changing the filament from PLA to ABS or PET, but that’s just speculation as of now.

Community will drive research and development

We expect servo interface to be quite popular among community this year

You know, we could be subtle with our wording and tell you stuff in the most delicate way possible, but the message would be watered down along the way. Therefore — R&D is bloody expensive and we need to focus on manufacturing. The company is in no position to effectively have manufacturing and R&D going on at the same time at the moment. Sure, we’d love to do a lot of in-house R&D in the future, but as of now, we must count on our community. There are some people, who voluntarily want to develop stuff for our platform (one more shoutout to Bobby, who’s most likely going to develop autonomous features for Turtle Rover), and we have customers doing pretty crazy and awesome stuff. We’ll try to make call for makers, remote hackatons and to make our customers release their modifications as open source modules to our market. There’s even been an idea about having, say, 2 TRs connected to TeamViewer, allowing people to code their stuff and basically “remotely lend” robots for testing. It’s still being worked on, so give us some time.

Creation of recommended parts database

Leaving stuff submerged in water for a few hours was a part of testing

Despite the fact the robot of ours has been introduced to the market last year, our team’s core has existed for a few years so far. Szymon, Aleksander and others have used a ton of many parts, differing in quality and adaptability, during development of Turtle Rover (and earlier Projekt Scorpio). Therefore, we’ll have something that we’ve been referring to as Recommended Parts Database. It’s the stuff that’s been used by us and we know it is well made and it works nicely on Turtle Rover. Even though we haven’t yet created RPD, RGBD Orbbec Camera and Dynamixels will make it to the list, because they both are great pieces of hardware.

We’ll be making a ton of tutorials and content

That’s the screenshot of first GPS coordinates obtained by a Turtle Rover. WIP.

Turtle Rover, although being a platform for tinkering, prototyping and building robotic projects, can be more community and user-friendly. It won’t come on it’s own, however, so we will be creating a ton of tutorials and other content. Three main reasons why it needs to be done, is to show what can be done with the platform on the integral level and to encourage people to play with it. The other is inbound marketing we’re conducting. Szymon has even set topics of some of tutorials already and they will include instructions on how to:

  • integrate lidars,
  • add 5 GHz WiFi support,
  • navigate Turtle Rover via LTE,

and a lot more. There’s already tutorials on installing ROS (we’ve linked this one earlier in the article) and some basic network stuff. Increased focus on content also means we will create more blog posts, be more active on social media and so on.

Conclusion

To the new year!

2019 is going to bring us a lot of hard work. All we can do now is to focus, keep our mindset positive and give it our best. It’s gonna be a ride.