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From the Nuremberg Toy Fair, a New Linux System For RC Cars

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the good-tech-makes-good-toys dept.

Toys 81

An anonymous reader writes "Last weekend, during the Nuremberg Toy Fair 2012, I spotted a really cool new system for 'professional' RC models based on Embedded Linux. The WiRC allows you to control an RC car (or any other RC vehicle) with an iOS/Android device using WiFi. The core of this system is a 240 MHz ARM9 processor, with 16 MB SDRAM and 4 MB FLASH (with 2 USB ports and 802.11b/g WiFi, a microphone input and a Speaker output). It features 8+4 channels of output. A free software SDK is now in development to code your own transmitter applications."

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81 comments

Linux for RC (3, Funny)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 2 years ago | (#39011877)

-bash: rc: command not found

:(

Re:Linux for RC (2)

noh8rz2 (2538714) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012133)

"anonymous reader" = manufacturer. just sayin'

Re:Linux for RC (1)

bviragh (2573295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39017969)

We are happy to hear that WiRC made it to slashdot. By the way if the "anonymous reader" would be us (Dension), then we would linked the official website [dension.com] instead of an Italian site, especially since we are located in Hungary :)

Re:Linux for RC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39012587)

Weird:

$ rc
; echo hello world
hello world

Robotics (2)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 2 years ago | (#39011933)

Put a little camera on it and an arm that I can control from my Xoom and watch out!

Re:Robotics (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012551)

Put a little camera on it and an arm that I can control from my Xoom and watch out!

It's a conspiracy to nab cookies from the kitchen I tell you!

Re:Robotics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39024041)

> Put a little camera on it and an arm that I can control from my Xoom and watch out!

It is already arm - 240MHz arm9 ...

Name (1)

JavaBear (9872) | more than 2 years ago | (#39011947)

WiRC? Why not RCos? (possible pronunciation: Arcos?)

Re:Name (1)

axlr8or (889713) | more than 2 years ago | (#39016201)

It's Linux based yeah? So it will WIRC. Arcos is an android device anyways.

Re:Name (1)

bviragh (2573295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39018233)

WiRC stands for WiFi RC

Re:Name (1)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | more than 2 years ago | (#39018911)

Soon, some 'Bad Guy' (TM) is going to make use of all this cheap-as-dirt RC/Robo tech for a crime, and ruin the fun for the rest of us.

This of you who refuse to read French (4, Informative)

victim (30647) | more than 2 years ago | (#39011967)

might appreciate the vendor's site in English [dension.com] .

Re:This of you who refuse to read French (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39012007)

especially since it's Italian... ;)

Re:This of you who refuse to read French (1)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#39018645)

I may have had a shot at reading it if it was French.

Re:This of you who refuse to read French (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39012009)

Don't you see it's clearly Spanish?

Re:This of you who refuse to read French (4, Informative)

Anaerin (905998) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012055)

Really? Spanish? The ".it" at the end of the domain not enough of a clue for you?

Re:This of you who refuse to read French (2, Funny)

SlashV (1069110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012077)

WHOOSH

Re:This of you who refuse to read French (2)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39016081)

It was all Greek to me...

Re:This of you who refuse to read French (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39012073)

Forget that! Who needs to read when the other language site has babes on it!

Re:This of you who refuse to read French (3, Informative)

game kid (805301) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012205)

Word. Their ideas [hobbymedia.it] are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to their newsletter [hobbymedia.it] .

Re:This of you who refuse to read French (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39012871)

Hopefully none of the languages feature firecrackers.

Re:This of you who refuse to read French (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012521)

I just want to be able to read the source code, thanks.

chrome and ignore (1)

costing (748101) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012625)

... or keep being ignorant, as you prefer

Re:This of you who refuse to read French (1)

psergiu (67614) | more than 2 years ago | (#39013813)

Or some of the other pages [hobbymedia.it] on that site :)

professional? well no (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 2 years ago | (#39011973)

Controlling a simple rc car is a rather simple task. Lets see someone strap that system into a full collective pitch rc chopper and control it from a idevice. The idevices make for a horrible control interface for any rc application.

Re:professional? well no (2)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012019)

I would not trust the inconsistent latency effects of wifi (e.g. when it losses association and has to sign on, again). I'd rather have a straight transmitter, even if it is digital, not encrypted, but with encryption of a command summation.

Re:professional? well no (3, Informative)

Lussarn (105276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012361)

I fly RC Helicopters and I would not trust something like this, period. We take signal quality very, very seriously. Any loss of signal and you are basically doomed the way we fly these days (low to the ground and stickbanging). Even the major manufacturers have signal problems, altough it's very good. Have never had any signal hickup with my Futaba 2.4 gear, but they have done everything in there power to make the signal as optimized for the application as possible. For a slow moving vehicle, sure. But anything flying, no thanks. Latency is another matter. 20ms stick to servo is considered good. The touchscreen alone is probably 100ms, Consider a car at 60mph, it will move several feets before even starting to turn at those latencys.

Cool, possibly. But more of a toy thing.

Re:professional? well no (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012547)

I fly RC Helicopters and..

Hey friend, you know of any not-too-expensive quadrlcopters you would recommend for someone just getting started in RC 'copters?

You know anything about something called a "Parrot"?

Re:professional? well no (3, Informative)

Lussarn (105276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012739)

Hi, The parrot seems to be something you actually do control with a phone. It's most proably self-stabilizing and very easy to fly altough most certanly very innacurate. http://ardrone.parrot.com/parrot-ar-drone/en/ [parrot.com]

It is a "toy", I normaly don't recommed them as it's worlds apart what I fly, but you could probably get some enjoyment out of it. Don't set your expectation bar too high though...

If you are truly interessted you can buy quad-chassis, motors, speed controlers, flight computer (with gyros and other sensors), and there is open source software for it too. These are the real thing, but since I just fly regular copters I don't know much about them I'm afraid. http://aeroquad.com/ [aeroquad.com] (Don't know if this is the best, but a place to start reading, if interessted)

Re:professional? well no (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39014891)

Ah, the Aeroquad looks like exactly what I had in mind, since my purpose is survey and cinematography (not to mention "fun"). I do some work with a group involved in very large-scale art installation. We hired a guy who had a pretty sophisticated RC fixed wing airframe, but it was too expensive and couldn't be stationary. We've got a budget, and I've got access to everything but aviation experience in one or another member of the group or friend. So, I figure we might as well try some commercially-available rigs. I definitely don't want anything controlled by a phone.

Thank you, friend.

Re:professional? well no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39015551)

Hi, The parrot seems to be something you actually do control with a phone. It's most proably self-stabilizing and very easy to fly altough most certanly very innacurate. http://ardrone.parrot.com/parrot-ar-drone/en/ [parrot.com]

It is a "toy", I normaly don't recommed them as it's worlds apart what I fly, but you could probably get some enjoyment out of it. Don't set your expectation bar too high though...

If you are truly interessted you can buy quad-chassis, motors, speed controlers, flight computer (with gyros and other sensors), and there is open source software for it too. These are the real thing, but since I just fly regular copters I don't know much about them I'm afraid. http://aeroquad.com/ [aeroquad.com] (Don't know if this is the best, but a place to start reading, if interessted)

Interestingly enough I used to work with the guy who runs that website (and started the project). He does the aeroquad thing on the side. We were talking about it at lunch one time and it sounds like there are other places to get similar kits but they are much more expensive and I don't know if they are available in the U.S. Though he pointed out that all of his work on it is open source so it would be possible to have the PCBs and everything built yourself to do it cheaper but he relies on people buying the kit from him to make money on it. I never bothered to look into the details of the project though. This was a couple of years ago and to be honest most of my info about the project is from him talking about it at work so don't take it at 100% truth.

Side note: Ted is a really nice guy but a huge LabVIEW fanatic (he used to work for NI selling it and he even used it on a project where he built a mac mini into his car to use as a media center) so I would expect him to do as much of the software in LabVIEW as possible, but it looks like the community has grown to a point where I suspect other people have written everything in a language that isn't terrible.

Re:professional? well no (1)

EETech1 (1179269) | more than 2 years ago | (#39016169)

When I was flying a few years ago, there were beginners models with a one year warranty that covered any damage, even from crashing. A reassuring thought the first time it smashes into 20 pieces!

Also a gyro on the tail rotor can be very helpful when you start out!

Stand behind it for the first few hours to get the hang of it, as all of the controls get reversed from your perspective when you turn it around. It's much easier to land it and regroup than trying to fly it once it gets turned because you will be constantly correcting it the wrong direction. Sideways is also tricky as well, the sticks seem to start doing the wrong thing!

Most people will even steer an R/C car the wrong way the first few times they drive it at themselves.

Cheers!

Re:professional? well no (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012741)

It's a throwback to the old days of 23-channel CB radio. There were basically gaps after every 4th channel, with those frequencies being used for things like radio control of toys and garage doors. I feel sorry for anyone who had a garage door opener on those frequencies. Besides interference from splatter and overload from strong signals, the congestion of CB led some to venture off into frequencies they shouldn't have been on. Eventually, being unusable for anything else, those channels became part of the expanded 40 channel CB. For control there wasn't latency, but there certainly was interference. Even worse than momentary loss if signal, the interference would sometimes be interpreted as incorrect signals. There was no error detection or correction with the simple technology.

I'm not sure what could be done to make things work better now. Maybe some redundancy using infra-red, ultra-sonic, white-space TV, 2.4 GHz, and 5.7 GHz all at once would help? That would make size and power consumption issues even more challenging though.

With the RC toy using Linux and WiFi, there isn't any reason for the story to focus on Android. I could see people just as easily using iThings or even PC based tablets. An iPad with video streamed back to it would be pretty cool actually.

Re:professional? well no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39016079)

Welcom to the 21st century, we have this thing called spread spectrum...

Works quite well. The air-interface really is not the (well, primary) issue with WiFi, it is all the other crap. WiFi is fine, it works impressively well given all the crap that has to be dealt with, it is simply the wrong tool for the job here. You don't need a 300Mbps+ capable air interface for real-time control applications, if you have that available it probably isn't well suited for the job.

Re:professional? well no (2)

codepunk (167897) | more than 2 years ago | (#39013791)

Exactly I don't want to loose body parts because of some packet loss. A rc heli is pretty much a lawn mower flying upside down, getting hit by a rotor blade would not be a fun experience.

Re:professional? well no (1)

ClaraBow (212734) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012101)

Here you go! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo3SoV0zZCc [youtube.com]

Re:professional? well no (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012171)

That sir is not a full collective pitch 3d capable helicopter.

Re:professional? well no (1)

ClaraBow (212734) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012343)

Touché -- I was afraid of that!

Re:professional? well no (1)

powerlord (28156) | more than 2 years ago | (#39014491)

That sir is not a full collective pitch 3d capable helicopter.

I thought one of the advantages of a Tri/Quad copter over the traditional collective pitch Helicopter design was that the multi-blade copter allowed for greater stability in the platform?

Isn't that a "good thing" from the perspective of having a wider user base, since it would allow a lower skilled operator (even leaving aside the whole concept of turning one into a UAV).

Re:professional? well no (2)

freeze128 (544774) | more than 2 years ago | (#39013731)

Not only that, but guess what? You really don't NEED an entire OS to control an RC car or plane. Simple transmitters have been around since the 70's and the technology has gotten MORE SECURE, faster, lighter, and more power efficient. Adding an entire OS to the mix just ends up with code you don't need, to add delays and security vulnerabilities that you don't want.

Not everything needs to have an OS in it for god's sake!

Re:professional? well no (1)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#39018709)

Not everything needs to have an OS in it for god's sake!

Pretty hand to have one in a robot though.

Re:professional? well no (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39026639)

What if i want to use this with 4 motors (each wheel) and simulate AWD in software, including limiting the total power output.

Car Swarm Apps (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012029)

How long until there's an Android app that keeps a swarm of cars scurrying around me as I walk around?

Swarm of copters?

Really? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39012031)

Rally cars? In Nuremberg?

Re:Really? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39018937)

People's cars.

Microphone and speaker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39012037)

Microphone and speaker can only be for one use:

You: "Go left, you idiot!"
Car: "I am going left"
You: "No, the other left!"

Re:Microphone and speaker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39012931)

Microphone and speaker can only be for one use:

You left out "Oh Shit!", triggering a copter bird simulation.

iOS/Andorid+WIFI control != professional (5, Informative)

cdrnet (1582149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012043)

In order to control any RC device like a car or some multi-copter even remotely professionally you need precise controllers, reliable connectivity and low latency, all of which any iOS/Android touch devices seriously lack, by design.

Even intermediate hobbyist senders (actually bidirectional these days for telemetry, FPV etc.) have precise and adjustable mechanical contol sticks, come with specialized circuits to bypass the controller's CPU where low latency is of importance and use frequency hopping RC for more reliability and to allow hundreds of pilots in a close range.

Re:iOS/Andorid+WIFI control != professional (1)

human spam filter (994463) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012953)

+1 There is no way you could control an RC helicopter using this. As you said, the controls are too imprecise and in addition wifi probably has too much lag.

Re:iOS/Andorid+WIFI control != professional (1)

RedHat Rocky (94208) | more than 2 years ago | (#39013071)

+1

Don't need to run my nitro buggy into a fence (or worse) because the phone twitched.

Re:iOS/Andorid+WIFI control != professional (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39013475)

The whole thing is just stupid overcomplex. 266 Mhz ARM system for controlling a few motors? I could do the same thing with a $2, 8 Mhz AVR or similar. Add on wifi, or better, a more direct (and cheaper) RF system without the latency of wifi and you're done. It would perform better using "slower" components.

Re:iOS/Andorid+WIFI control != professional (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39017141)

For a simple RC car yeah, but not really that unreasonable if you're looking to do AI. I might buy it for CS373 (http://www.udacity.com/cs#373)

Re:iOS/Andorid+WIFI control != professional (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39026795)

or say simulating an AWD system, including limiting the total power output.

Nuremberg? (2)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012139)

I guess it's a rally car, then.

Re:Nuremberg? (1)

Megahard (1053072) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012693)

And they will give it a trial run.

Re:Nuremberg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39012985)

Believe it or not, the stadium where the Nuremburg Rallies were held is now an F-1 racing center and tourist attraction.

Re:Nuremberg? (3, Funny)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 2 years ago | (#39013693)

no, it's for war driving actually.

That's a bit steep. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012145)

You can get all the PWM functions out of an AVR chip strapped to the embedded controller of your choice. I can buy a tablet with more horsepower and a 7" display for less. Someone ought to be able to sell something just like this for fifty bucks. It doesn't even have onboard WiFi, it's USB. Which is included, but let's face it, a micro wifi dongle is five bucks now.

Re:That's a bit steep. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39012947)

It's currently on the site for a mere 86 euros (excl VAT, 109 with VAT) with free shipping and that comes with a camera as well.

In my opinion, it's not awful for a rather complete product like this.

A good thing, probably... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39012207)

I'm pleased to see some work in this area, since low-end RC car controllers are often used to communicate with hobby robotics.

A serious problem is that the 2.4 GHz spectrum has become grossly overcrowded, since the band is so limited. For instance, one of my robots sends out three channels of live video and a low bandwidth telemetry stream; meanwhile it receives realtime spread-spectrum commands (Futaba Fasst) to control 8 servos. I can shoehorn all this onto 2.4GHz, but there's plenty of interference between the video and telemetry. It essentially kills Wifi reception.

The Killer App for RC and 3D TV (2)

camperslo (704715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39013133)

For instance, one of my robots sends out three channels of live video

Of course an obvious (?) use of this would be to stream 3D video back to a 3D TV or any device that has a fast enough display to support shutter-glasses and navigate with the better depth perspective. Finally a use for those 3D televisions, and something to push processing power for video compression and ATSC encoding. Yes, it'd be fun to see the option of it putting out an actual broadcast-compatible signal too, so a tv could pick up video directly. Let the neighbors watch too. Sure, there are plenty of problems (size, cpu power and power consumption, FCC limitations, coordinating frequencies to avoid causing interference , signal-adaptive tv receiver circuits that don't like rapid changes...). A few good challenges help push the state of the art. Who knows, it might even result in digital TVs that are less affected by unstable broadcast signals when the wind blows nearby trees around.

That's a twist... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39012329)

Will it run Windows?

How well was it tested? (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012335)

Have there been any public trials?

Re:How well was it tested? (2)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#39014791)

Have there been any public trials?

Nuremburg is famous for trials.

Proprietary protocol (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012539)

Open protocol**
** Contact us for further information
Software SDK**
** Contact us for further information

In other words, the protocol it uses is proprietary.

This has some robotics potential. It's supposed to support cameras, servo outputs,4 digital inputs, and 4 digital outputs, and 1 analog voltage input, in a compact package.

Re:Proprietary protocol (1)

bviragh (2573295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39018077)

The method we send the protocol specification is a bit embarrassing but we just would like to see how many people are interested in it (and see the possible usage scenarios). However currently we have got so many requests that it seems it would be better to make the specification downloadable on the website.

I get it (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012645)

Its a slightly more refined version of sticking a wireless router on a car.

Not for 'professionals' (1)

PrimalChrome (186162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39012753)

....in any sense. Professional RC applications are high end rigs that demand precision and low latency. "Professional" RC racers require the same kind of response time and controls that grant tight precision. This system covers not a single requirement. Essentially it can only bee for one of two things...
- Hobbiest geeks
- Automated RC tasks

Re:Not for 'professionals' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39013343)

OK, so what about the less than hobby geeks? Some geeks are hobbier than others, I agree, and some might even like bees, but we can't all be the hobbiest ones.

Yea so what? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#39013289)

The helicopter they had last year is already in the clearance section

unusable for racing, maybe as kids toy (1)

thygate (1590197) | more than 2 years ago | (#39013443)

looking at the video on their site, the lag on the camera alone makes it unusable at speeds > 1km/h. It might be cool as a kids toy, but racing ? no.

Re:unusable for racing, maybe as kids toy (1)

bviragh (2573295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39021125)

the best case latency in the camera stream is around 300 ms, however the latency in the control stream is much better ~20 ms, so it can be used with higher speed than 1 km/h :)

A rally perhaps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39013927)

We could get a whole lot of them together and have a Nuremberg Rally. No way that could be misunderstood...

Southwest operates on the cheap? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39015123)

Say it isn't so!

Yes, because when I think of Nuremberg... (1)

SoVi3t (633947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39016737)

...I think of toys

Boot times? (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 2 years ago | (#39019765)

How long does this thing take to boot? The fastest boot time I've seen on a Linux system is 6 seconds. That's if you include USB which seems to suck up 2/3 of the boot time.

Re:Boot times? (1)

bviragh (2573295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39021023)

In default AP mode the WiFi network is created around the 15th second after startup, but note the smartphone should be also connected to this network and it takes time too. By the way you are right, the kernel boot time is about 5..6 sec, and the WiFi AP creation takes further 8-10 sec (maybe this network creation can be polished).

Re:Boot times? (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 2 years ago | (#39023137)

IMHO, this is what keeps embedded Linux from gaining universal acceptance. Some applications don't care about boot times. Some don't care because you don't boot them regularly. But a two-second boot time and a power-loss tolerant file system are needed for any Linux appliance that runs off batteries.

Different than WiFli? (1)

leadfoot (159248) | more than 2 years ago | (#39022863)

So this is the Linux version of WiFli?

http://interactivetoy.com/IATC1011/home/bladerunner.html [interactivetoy.com]

Re:Different than WiFli? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39040873)

The Wifli is running linux, 2.6.21

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