Zoomer Shadow Exploratory and Repair

Overview tech  of machine towards bottom. Reference for Zoomer 2  .  This is NOT a hack.  Repair and Review.
Casually walking through one of my favorite thrift stores minding all little things scattered about I happened to find a Zoomer Shadow partially buried under plush dolls and animals. Exterior was slightly tortured or loved. It was laying there in an awkward position of having its hip approximately 40 degrees from what would be inline. Legs, head, body, tail and wheels appeared intact. It didn’t have a charge so wouldn’t turn on. Checked the wheels to see if they would turn freely and they did. One wheel was a little less free moving then the other three. Indicative of usually nothing more than dirty. Could hear the gear train in each foot.
As with many things sold at this particular venue there was likely something wrong with it. That and it is unlikely a parent would donate a 100$ toy. Seldom anyway. These robots were at $200 plus not that long ago and still run about 100$ now.
The hip rotation was a fair guess of what went wrong. LiPo battery may have given out its lifespan was my first guess. Noted issue with charging and bad charging circuits for these bots. Average run time of 15-20 minutes wasn’t winning any awards with kids and less so on hour long recharge with a good USB A charger. It DID NOT come with a charger from manufacturer. ONLY the USB A to USB mini cable. Fortunately most people have cell phone charger with USB A laying about or at least a computer with open ports.
Given my insatiable curiosity and fixation on robotic tech it was a brief moment before it was on way home with me. That and few dollar price tag made it irresistible. Cuteness helped but not deciding factor.
To the work and test area for an evaluation. Not the workbench; the other work area.  Kitchen table in use.  Other other area.  Plug in charger. Nothing. No power charging light. Give it a few minutes on charger. Still no glow. Thinking this is like gen 1 and need turn to off and let sit on charger for a bit. It isn’t and doesn’t need.. So unplug and move to where it can sit and charge but when plugged back in charge LED glows. Right about now getting the feeling something wrong but I have a charge light. Let it charge about 25 minutes and charge light goes off. Fully expected an hour or so run to charged. Battery last breaths? Don’t know yet.

Unplug Shadow from charge and LED matrix eyes cycle as if blinking to sleep eyes. Unlike the original Zoomer this would have translated to low battery but plugged in and on. It’s normal for Zoomer 2, Shadow and Bentley unplugged and on. Push head down to enter voice command mode. Barks a couple times and proceeds to back right up into kitchen sink at quick speed. Clunk. Good thing no water or meal mess in there. It’s still moving so pick up and put back on counter and it quickly activates hip motor making a horrible snapping noise and continues to do so whilst trying to turn hip. It apparently sensed the fall into sink and probably thinks still sitting upright on back leaned against side of sink or possibly doing one of its tricks or self righting. Second issue found. Something terrible wrong with hip motor and or mechanism.

IMG_20170805_012350Now is time to bring out tools. Start with butt and work my way up the problem tree.
Four plus head(Phillips) screws and opens easily. Nothing standing out as broken. 3 potentiometers, a large-ish toy motor and gear box, two spring loaded leg mounts, switch plate with two buttons, and complement of wires. Check the waist motor pot for sweeping values and responds good.

Check the leg pots too. All good. Could see drive gear torque over mechanism used and appeared good. Taped and marked leg mounts so as not to have springs pop out. Slid rear legs out of their holders and removed switch plate and then waist gear motor. Pinion looked good. So continue up the path.


Mid section to waist is a separate module inset to chest with pivot point. Disassemble chest removing five more screws. One of which goes through center of mid-section pivot. Front legs similar mount to rear. Marked and taped up to prevent spring surprise and hopefully avoid alignment issues. Head is connected to spring and lever to mid section allowing for head left-right movement. Removed spring and carefully lifted top chest half.

Head also connected by in-line wire socket that go to eyes, speaker and neck switch from IR/Tilt chest PCB module.


Problem with waist readily apparent. Squished crimped wire syndrome on the three wire going to hip position sensor..

Nice that it was actually labeled waist on MCU board. I’m going to say was assembled that way from factory. Try as i might- getting wire to back into that position with mid section assembly with its two screws only, was not going to happen. It was in side ways which likely means two shell mid section was clamped on it. I tried several different ways. Several of those method would have required force that would otherwise break some other part.

IMG_20170805_030326Of the course of natural events for me I didn’t have any that particular style connectors to roll out a new replacement assembly. Two, four and up to eight conductor sure. No threes. Go Fish.  Cut out open section of wire and solder back together. Insulate with liquid ‘tape’. Partially re-assemble and test. All better now but waist is sticking. No more snapping over though. Apparently rear right leg that flew apart during disassembly was off on its hex sided mount also causing tricks and self righting not to work right.

Back in and check waist gear box and motor. Last drive drive before pinion output was somewhat sheared. Nothing that couldn’t fix with sharp blade but put in on second gear position due to weakened condition and placed second gear in last drive position. Nice that they were all the same tooth and pitch counts. Re-assemble and test. That’s better. Right rear leg appearing to be sticky and not responding like others. Wheel/leg motor shell had ‘stuff’ in it. Wanted pictures of gear train anyhow. Good excuse.


Still issue with charging circuit. I could reassemble ass end fully and leave it be for now. Back into chest.

Watch microphone wire and re-tape to side or may catch on head swivel spring/lever. Remove spring and head connector again. Remove four screws holding motherboard in. Two hold a plastic shield. Infra Red detectors, head connector, and tilt switch are on a perpendicular daughter board soldered on. Remove connectors on board top side. Carefully removed motherboard by pushing gently back and pulling up from backside towards butt.

Li-Po battery should be exposed now as well as USB/Language selector/ (on/off) switch board. Remove the two wide head screws and scanned board for usual bad solder joint.

Oh guess what ?- found some. Huge surprise. Was actually expecting a messed up USB mini port but it was OK. Didn’t like its shield solder job. Re-soldered to flow. Fairly impressed didn’t break off yet. Usually what kills port and pulls traces from board. Not just this bot. I like the mini-USB better than micro for its’ toughness. Don’t mean diddly if not soldered properly on either or any. I did have an incident where the battery actually discharged below safety circuit on battery cut-off. Around 2.8 to 3.1 volts. Hasn’t happened again since fixed solder joint. LiPo tested good if were waiting to read that.
Since going this far was a short trip to investigate rest.

There’s enough room to stick a higher mAh battery in there but may require some cutting. Mid classic through hole metal can crystal juts down a bit. IMG_20170805_032119

I would probably go back-pack if I were to add more battery power to it. Platform a little small for my taste for Hack-ability but viable. Is amusing fun toy and probably will leave it as such.  For now.

Beating down some of the Sales Hype or ‘Spin’:
I don’t see any signs of Artificial Intelligence or Learning ability in this device. Only thing being taught or learned is the user having to speak clearly and annunciate in different inflections and accentuation until unit recognizes pre-programmed command. A few commands not being listed in manual and which it may or may not do regardless how spoken. That is not clever programming. Just poor voice recognition. Zoomer gen 1 and 2 do have an autonomy mode that is fun to watch. It goes into wander /random action if no command is given after head is pressed down or if a period of time after last command. It will stop on it’s own after battery power reaches low level and it appears to go to sleep. 15 to 20 minutes in average.

Nothing replaces the real thing …yet. There’s no love or longing. It’s a machine and not Intelligent. Maybe in Zoomer gen 99. Only intelligence it has is by programmed and designed illusion. It doesn’t forget tricks. It doesn’t pee or poo or whine and whimper til you play with it or recognize it in some way. Doesn’t have messy food habits but it does need to be fed electricity. It doesn’t slobber or have bad doggy breath. It doesn’t have a favorite treat and get all pissy if you don’t have any. It doesn’t try to guilt trip you into giving up your cheeseburger. It doesn’t chew your slippers or poo in your shoes if it’s upset with you. Can’t really walk it but it will follow you for a short length. Definitely can’t drag you half mile when it sees a squirrel or rabbit. It will listen to your commands and maybe do what wanted. At least that part is realistic. It wont shed on everything once or twice or continuously. It doesn’t jump on your bed, fart, give you a dumb look and leave. Don’t have to take it to Vet but may need a service tech. It doesn’t get sick or die.  If LiPo cell goes  dead it is not exactly easy for non tech to replace so trash can funeral for some.   These things it doesn’t do are part of pet guardianship/ownership. There’s more but point being it shouldn’t be marketed as “your real best friend”. Sometimes friends are assholes. Pet friends too. This bot isn’t smart enough to be a friend or that other thing.

It is cute and fun and will do some cool things. Good amusement for a while. LiPo rechargeable is nice and money saving. Lack of even a cheap wall wart charger sad. Worth the price tag?. $200 plus range no. 100$ range seems high but there is significant tech and many parts assembly so about right. Then again I’m a cheap guy and $100 for a kids toy that may end up in corner within a few weeks is bothersome. That is assuming assembly holds together or wasn’t poorly constructed and child feels like they broke it when having done nothing wrong or haven’t been abusive; then ain’t worth rotted wooden nickel dipped in radioactive sludge. Just saying.

I can go on and will.

Laters.
OVERVIEW:
Tech notes.
Zoomer Pup: Shadow and Bentley, and second generation Zoomer.
Manufacturer : Spin Master

Intended Use is Toy.

Works best on flat surface open space.  Linoleum, concrete, wood or other.   It does travel on short pile rug but not well and many of its motion / actuation are hampered.  Battery consumption is also higher on rug.

Rubber banded Wheels tend to pickup and hold dirt and grime in a short run.  Is essential to keep clean for proper operation.

This is a Microprocessor MCU controlled toy.  Black Blob style.  No  I did not attempt reprogram.  MCU is from a company (GP) and product I’m not familiar with and have no tool chain for.  Nor did I find one openly (free or cheap or common)  available at the time.  Appears to be OTP but didn’t investigate.  Spin Master toys tend to use these MCU line  including Meccabrain tm on Meccanoid.  Does have a 8Mbit Flash memory that could be reprogrammed.  There is a second black blob MCU in head controlling matrixed eyes. .
Height ~8.5 in. Length 12 in. Width 8in. (20.3cm x 30.5cm x 20.3cm) approximations.
Weight: 19.2 oz (548g)
Primary construction material is molded plastic. exo frame
Power Source: 3.7VDC Lithium Polymer (LiPo) 20C 350mAH (21mmx24mm x8mm thickness)
2.860V safety charging  cut-off
Cost new: 80-120$ US. as of 8/08/2017-2019. Prices can still go as high as >200$.
****Knock -offs with RF remote control are being sold under ‘Happ Cow’ and other name for about half the price. No voice control. No dual 5×7 Led array eyes. White and Pink Dalmation spotting . One of the fakes has 5×7 arrray eyes but RF remote without voice command.  Some have smart device App control.*****
Product web site: http://www.zoomerpup.com or http://www.spinmaster.com.
Next gen of Zoomer with different color schemes, plastic ears, and tail. Next generation has more storage memory and can recognize twice the commands or more. Mechanical operation appears to be identical to first /second generation.
Care and cleaning: DEVICE is in NO WAY WATERPROOF nor so much as water resistant. NOT a BATH or SHOWER or POOL toy. Mildly damp soapy cloth and wipe clean /dry only. Manufacturer says dry cloth only but if ever tried to clean a child’s loved toy that would be seemingly impossible. NOT for use in Dishwasher. Not for use in Microwave Oven. Not a DOT approved speed bump. Not for use as Medical or life saving equipment. Depending on your HMO/PPO/ Healthplan and only with approval which may change or be denied at any moment including during or after surgery /procedure especially if results in death or injury contributed to or by Administration or incompetence thereof, there to , implied or implicit. Agreed third party wanker or …Wait… What was i doing?… oh ya…
Robotic Interactive mobile toy in resemblance to a dog. Kitty cat also available similarly constructed without matrix eyes. Dino and chimp variations too.
Zoomer is modeled after a Dalmation. Zoomer generation 2 has black Heart on chest above charge port and his ears are spotted black not solid black on outside. Black heart on top of butt. I’ve yet to see one with blacked out underside of head as pictured on new box.
Bentley is modeled after a beagle.
Shadow is modeled after a German shepherd.
Or so I’ve read. I get Bentley like beagle and Zoomer like Dalmation. Shadow looks more Malamute than shepherd. MY opinion.

Operation fairly straight forward. Charge battery by plugging in USB mini connector to chest located port and USB A side of cable to a POWERED USB A port. RED light turns on when connected and charging.
There is an anomaly that has to do with the charging circuit and related procedures.
Manual for Shadow states:
3. Make sure Shadow is in the OFF ( O ) position.
4. Insert the mini USB end into the charge port on the
underside of Shadow.
Original Zoomer (First Gen) required the unit to be turned on for charging or the charging light will not turn on.
However if Zoomer gen 1 battery is deeply discharged then it may not charge. That is the charging light doesn’t come on. Leaving Zoomer off and plugging in USB mini port in will still charge but much lower rate and without indicator. Manufacturer recommends leaving Zoomer 1 plugged in for an hour in off position. Zoomer may come back to normal charging after this procedure.
Procedure has no effect on Generation 2 Shadow. There may be other revisions that it will work on.
If LiPo battery is allowed to deep discharge below 2.8-3.1 VDC the internal protection circuit on LiPo battery will keep the battery disconnected and may not allow normal charging. This is also indicative of a dead cell or defective charging circuit or both. The way to fix is to remove battery and replace, recharge battery by another method which requires bypassing safety (BAD tech for shame.) Send unit back to place of purchase if new or within exchange period if able. Contact Spin Master for RMA if any warranty left.
Best is to charge unit when it shows sign of slowing down or it goes to sleep mode and fails to respond. If you see a weird sparkling activity in its LED eyes then that’s an almost too late signal. Get on charger NOW>.
Wait until red charging light goes out (turns off). Check language switch for proper position. “A” position for English. If you don’t plan on using speech recognition then don’t. Turn power switch on. It’s located next to USB mini chest port. That’s towards the “I” character for on and not towards the “O” character. The “O” symbol is for off.
snickering. Silly. I’ve played phone tech before but now I’m pretending NOT to be an expert on the internet.
It’s eyes will go straight lit line as if eyes closed. Place robo dog on floor standing upright or not. Push down on head as if it’s nodding yes. Stand back and watch. It has an autonomous mode. Sort of. If you think a relatively blind, deaf Sheltie dog hyped on caffeine and sugar snacks and bouncing off walls is somehow autonomous then there it is. Unlike a Sheltie which even in chemically induced hyper-state will eventually feel pain; robot dog will keep bouncing. Up to approximately 20-30 minutes on fresh charge. Fortunately no damage to kitchen cabinetry so I can continue to breathe free from the Wrath of Kitchen Lordess or Troll. Sure it’s all cute bouncing off walls but rub new cabinetry the wrong way and wolverine swinging badger bloodfest carnage may ensue.
Power Source
Power source is Lithium Polymer (LiPo) 3.7 V Single cell. Recharged from USB mini to USB A cable provided.
The unit does NOT come with it’s own charger. Can be plugged into personal computer USB A ports.
I suggest using a typical 5VDC @1Amp USB A wall wart cellphone charger. Normally device recharges in about an hour.
This can vary with current (Amps) output of USB A port.
***Keep in mind that some laptops will go into low power sleep/standby mode thereby cutting current on USB ports or greatly reducing power during battery operation. True for some desktop PC motherboards. Results in not recharging or incredibly slow charging otherwise. Check your power settings in Operating System.

Interaction/Sensory Input:
Specific Voice command recognition through microphone. List of commands further down. More precisely multiple speech segment recognition.
The difference between words is not based on the entirety of each word but on multiple segments of each word. For Instance command “Vegas Baby” would be just as easily recognized by the unit as saying “egg as bray bee” and other variations. Trying “slots baby ” does work.
English, Spanish or French speech recognition manually switchable by three position switch located in compartment on front lower chest next to power switch and charging port under removable tethered rubber cover. Language Switch must be positioned correctly for intended native language of user or recognition will be unlikely. Recognizes loud noises as well.
Two channel reflected IR detection located on chest. Short distance left-right differentiation detection.
Head pitch down switch. Used for entering command modes. Once for standard voice command set or hold down for approximately three seconds for ‘secret’ extended command set.
Switch on top of hip for entering trick mode. Trick mode is essentially random selection from voice commands.
Five interior potentiometers for position of legs and roll rotation or hip. Presently program does not include direct interaction from movement of legs.Which would have been nice for the “shake a paw” command. Maybe in third generation? Legs can be moved and are spring loaded to return position without damage but only in their intended axial movement. Reasonably designed breakage resistance.
**No attempt should be made to force hip to move. Mechanism does have snap over torque relief on driven gear but continued rotation will result in damage to geartrain eventually. Holding hip from moving when in operation will force the driven gear to ‘snap’ over without significant damage but will eventually wear to unusable.
A tilt switch is located internally on chest daughter board for determining Zoomer Shadow’ s orientation. Zoomer is capable of self righting from several most non upright standing position..
Given inputs and responses to input with plenty of observation it is misleading to say that ‘Zoomer series learns anything. It is incapable of being taught. It has a command set. It can only recognize that command set. There are built in behaviors which exhibit themselves somewhat randomly.
Output / Manipulators:
Speaker: Makes various sound effects from dog panting, barking, growling, and other sound effects.
Eyes: Two 5×7 LED matrix simulate eye movement and expression. Used for other display purpose too including character display.
Five DC brush PM motors control all of Zoomer’s movement. One large low geared motor controls hip roll. Four much smaller motors, one in each foot, control wheel rotation for locomotion and through clever manipulation also control position of legs and lateral yaw of hip . Wheel motors use a friction/speed spring tension slip gear set. Two transmissions each leg. One in wheel itself and other in leg powered by same motor. The head moves in relation to hip by means of lever and spring. Dual TI 8835 dual H-bridge power leg motors. Hip motor has its’ own discrete component H-bridge. It can go to about 1m/s. Not actually measured speed.
Voice Commands
Push down on head to give it a voice command. Continue pushing for at least 3 seconds to enter extended (“secret”) command. There is a voice command to enter “secret” voice command mode.
Present list of voice commands-Command Action
Be sneaky Bend all legs and creep around quietly.
Beg Sit and lift front two legs not really goes back and forward lifting front legs
Chase your tail Go around in a circle 3 times
Come here Fold his legs and move towards the first thing he sees.
Follow me *You Stand in front of Shadow then slowly walk forward.
shadow Barks twice. Follow your feet.
Free Run in a circle and bark happily.
Go pee pee Lift his leg and do a back leg shuffle.
Go to sleep Yawn, turn around in a circle then lay down or
turn over and sleep on side
I love you Bark ‘I love you’
Lay down Fold all legs completely.
lets dance break dancing puppy

Let’s go for a walk Bark. Wag his tail and run around with excitement
Let’s play *You Hold a ball or object in front of Shadow, and slowly move it forward and back.
Shadow Lunges at the object, nudge it forward, back up, then repeat.
Look at me *You Hold your hand in front of his chest and move it left to right.
Shadow Follows your hand with his eyes.

Play dead Roll on to his back and an X appears in his eyes.
Protect me Growl, bark. Lunge forward with front legs down, back legs up.
And bark at any motion.
Say hello Bark hello in a dog voice
Shake a paw *You Move your hand toward one of his font paws and
Shadow will Twist his torso and move one paw toward you

Shake off Shake like a wet dog spin cycle
sing me a song sings a song clementine or
Sit down Fold back legs and keep front legs straight
Speak Bend back legs with each bark.
Stand up Stand up
Stand guard Bark angrily when seeing something.
Stay Sit still until given the voice command, “Free“.

 

Extended (secret trick mode)
hold Shadow’s head down for
3 seconds until he displays upside down question marks
or voice command:
Show me your secret tricks.” – shadow howls twice and then pant. His eyes will
turn into upside down question marks to indicate that
he is in “secret trick mode”.
Command Action
Back it up Dance, lifting his rear up and down.
brick breaker brick game using chest sensors to move paddle left and right
cluck like a chicken clucks like chicken
Count me down Show numbers in his eyes, and bark like crazy when his eyes get to zero
door bell makes noise like door bell and runs around
who’s your favorite you in dog sound and heart in eyes
fire fire truck siren with flames in eyes
fish single dot
Go Fish Show a fish swimming across his eyes.
I’m Home runs in circle
Let it rip  let out a high pitched fart.
Moo like a cow Imitate the sound of a cow.
Show me the money Show dollar symbols in his eyes.
table tennis Table tennis in eyes – have to use your hand on his chest sensors ping pong may also work
Vegas baby or casino baby eyes roll like slot machine and slot machine sound
zombie time slow moving with groan

.There are more. These listed here are verified though device may refuse to recognize any command. Tone, Inflection or accent in speech of user also effects recognition. Try saying commands in different speed and syllable accentuation. By pressing trick button on top of butt you can compare random tricks to ones listed to see if any are missing. I know at least one is.

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And then there’s the ‘App’

MeccaNoid Android Application Version 2.4 (31)

A year waited for and a few waited longer before Application with ” Behavior Builder”showed up in Android Market.
Open Source. yaaaaa. Funny. When Meccano / Spin Master declare properly what is and what isn’t “Open Source” of what has been released then I will take it more seriously instead of a buzz-word sales tactic.

Copied from the Meccabrain.cpp Arduino IDE library posted on Meccano.com websiteinside a compressed folder named “meccanoid library” as of June 26, 2017:
“”
/*
LEGAL NOTICE:
Meccanoâ„¢, MeccaBrainâ„¢, MeccanoTechâ„¢ and Meccanoidâ„¢ are trademarks

of Meccano. All rights reserved.
The information contained in this document is Proprietary to Spin Master Ltd.
This information should not be used in the creation and sale of any commercial

product.”
*/
“”

That bit of text in the header of program Library made freely available to me says: NOT OPEN SOURCE. I guess there’s no web resources describing Open Source. NOT.

It is reasonable to assume API is free for use with Meccano hardware. IMO.

********//// The Meccanoid Arduino Library is not complete and has typos,errors.  Meccano_Smart ModuleProtocols_2015.pdf has same. Library does nothing by itself and requires a program written by You or someone else brave enough. It is an Application Programming Interface (API). It implements low level protocols used by Meccano servos and modules made available by inclusion (#include) in user program.

Basically it’s a translator so your program can talk to Meccanoid hardware through whatever microcontroller.

******It is not a Meccabrain ™ control program and as of present
Meccabrain is a closed system.  The use of Meccabrain name in its declaration in Library is misfortunate and adds to confusion. It would be nice if Meccano would release the BLE controls protocols so actual Meccabrain could be used in true Open Source. \\\\*********

It really is disappointing to diminish a perfectly usable 16 bit processor to a singular use when could easily be left open. *sniff* some blue.

*Sigh.*

Perspective:
I’ve been Building robots and electronics way too long.
I’m a ‘long-time’ fan of Meccano and Erector. From the disappointing 70’s of Erector to the glory of Meccano up to 90’s and A.C. Gilbert Erector Type II sets far Older than me; there will always be a fondness.
So when Spin Master manned up a Meccano(id) Robot I was thrilled. Honestly.
Was almost preschool child like giddiness on Christmas eve night thing.
Robotics and Meccano. My favorite hobby and construction toy. I already had a pictured model in mind with all the elegance of past Meccano gorgeous fine tooth brass gears, and style of Type II Erector, with modern flare for a New Generation and big HONKING hulking powerful motors like yester years. Now with: stand alone semi-autonomous programmable microcontroller, servo control , modern batteries, fancy L.E.D. lighting and color changing, modern voice synthesis, and array of sensors.  Of course there had to be WIFI and Bluetooth. Duuuuhhhh. Another assumption would be odometery on drive wheels or at very least a reliable Navigation of some kind.

Ah sweet fantasy.

*POP* goes the bubble.

Reality sucks.

Got some bit of what fantasized anyhow and usable voice control. Sea Monkeys anyone? Alright not that bad- mostly. No sonar either. Is like: but everybody else has one on their systems. Well if everybody else jumped off a cliff — Yup probably in this instance. Of course without sonar, Infrared, or other way of determining the edge of cliff it can be reasoned that leg motors will continue to push forward til gravity forces ugly termination of program. The original drop down and through programming style.
So with that in mind:

Some of this is me whining and venting.
Some may be constructive criticism.

 

Meccanoid Android Application.
Don’t know about that other thing or those Other fruity things.
Overly fat power sucking Unity stuff. Not picking on Unity. Is good portable library on multiple platforms but can be taken to less than good use. Seriously bad processor / battery drain for what appears to be doing little to nothing.

Ummm…. Program audio control? Oh. No. Turn your volume off and on manually on your smart-er device.

Besides bad sound effects are much better than anything else you might need or want to hear.

3D Ragdoll Avatar on 2D display more work than useful.

Would it have been so difficult to put icon on the sides with backward -forward-left-right? I get it. It skid steers like a tank. Differential. Can think of at least a half dozen better ways to do this than having to press two icons to go forward, wait for Avatar to turn around, and then use two other icons.

Screenshot_20170625-061356

Ragdoll Slider controls better but lack edit labeling and specific positioning or speed control. They do have labels now but too generalized: Head, Left Arm, Right Arm, Feet and Eyes.   Labels only there in offline not connected to Meccanoid. Needs work.

Color wheel selection of LED lights on servos and LED light bar are fairly simple and allows transition speed for light bar. So one thing I cant really complain about. Wait a bit and some complaint will manifest.

I’ve seen the LED light bar referred to as Smart LED Servo with other names. Check definition of the word ‘servo’.
It’s not a servo mechanism. The official name in the construction manual is “Head LEDs” and “eyes”. Elsewhere “Smart LED module”,” Programmable LED Eyes”. According to Owen Lu it’s “Meccanoid Brain – RGB LED”. That’s hardware and so back to APPlication program.
All is limited by a timer based storage window which must be saved once full or “new”ed out. Needing to start another session. That can be irritating when desiring only to drive bot around. No setting for turning off recording session and run continuous.
No reasonable way to edit what was made either.

>>>Motion Capture was cool but again no editing and it needed it. Shadow gets confused and messes up an otherwise perfect sequence. Motion capture is no longer available sadly. Supposededly replaced by “drag and drop” AKA “Behavior Buider”.
Don’t know which is worse name. Alternatively I like to call it Crazy ArRoWs. That is excluding a list of derogatory names. <<<.

Shut off App or Blue Tooth and robot returns to dumby. The illusion of autonomy gone.
Not dumby really. Plays a bit. Have L.I.M. to work with.
Who thought using BLE (BlueTooth Low Energy) cutting off large number of available devices was a good idea?
BLE also tends to be on newer more expen$ive devices.

Drag to death and drop in trash programming. “Behavior Programming”.

Crazy ArRoWs everywhere and sometimes can’t always see where they’re going.  Often not to where intended. Drag to point intended. Drop. Goes somewhere near butnot where needed or not at all. Combines several elements together that were never intended. Sure, watch the little red dot pop on and out in modules while program runs.

Ya. Sucks.
Damn it dropped wrong place. Drop in trash working elements so can fix. Redo.
Lack of OOPs or BACK or Undo buttons. What the smeg?

Single step backup at least…. come on- sheeeesh.

Maybe start from ‘SCRATCH’ and work upward. Top-downward? Freaking 1980’s Turtle language maybe? LOGO, Pilot, Forth with Turtle, anything. I would welcome BASIC here or Micro ‘C’. Ya know like the Arduino but without having to buy an 8bit MCU when a 16 bit is already there and 32/64bit speed demon number cruncher in Smart Device. There’s a bad pun and a suggestion there somewhere.

For navigation … nothing. It has no odometery. Turn driving motor(s) on for ‘ x ‘ seconds at unknown speeds labeled very slow to very fast. 5 seconds minimum at very slow single drive or differential gets about 90 degrees turn. So much for fine control. Can use Ragdoll to make a recording for less run time on motor but still sad. Worse is Ragdoll recordings may not work as entered in Bad “Behavior”.
Lack of environment input not helping. Could use some simple switch inputs minimum. Using a servo’s feedback silly but it’s there. Not great mostly due to losing a servo to do it. Can be worked around.

IMG_20170701_060504

Dragging four menu buttons out of the chest (Meccabrain) to something and some where more useful comes to mind. More on that laters. maybe. Ha. Assuming Crazy Arrows can handle it.
Has voice control but no method to implement in programming. Yes or No response to question would be nice.
There is no provision in App for saving programs externally. Alternatively snag programs and sounds from Android file structure but will not include  L.I.M. which is on Meccabrain. Have to use a File Manager as there is no provision in program. Assuming access to files not blocked by firmware and permissions on smart device.

***Drone Mode: Another issue with “Behavior” is that it may not let you make a program if less than four servos are attached. If it does it may not work. Nothing happens or only some work. Sliders under Ragdoll may not work either. They go up and down without response on Meccanoid. Especially on channel 1 servo socket. Channel 8 sometimes works. The ‘start star’ wont be there with less than four servo in some modes and certain sockets.

IMG_20170701_060512
More Quarkiness. Configuration that usually has no problems is at least 2 servos on slot 1 and 2 servos on slot 3. Which not surprisingly follows G15 original wiring and it’s

Dino variant. Drive motors always seem to work.
True on G15 and G15KS.
Learned intelligent movement (L.I.M) recordings can be included into program.
L.I.M. seems to have no trouble but not reasonable to try all variations of slots and servos. Unlike App, LIM will recognize extra servos and record from them. App Programming and sliders may not.

LIM allows saving up to 15 recordings at about 3 minutes each. Approximately 45 minutes of recordings that can be used in Crazy Arrows and stand alone without App on Meccanoid.

Presently “Behavior” programming has numerous quirks and bugs.
A for instance or e.g.:
Setting any servo to LIMp to get a position may force all servos to LIMp. Once it gets what you asked it for everything goes back to active where last left them.
LIM(p) is the icon element for servo input where can be chosen a condition of less or minus 90 to -90 degrees of servo position. Smart servo disables motor on selected servo. Waits for servo position to match within a range entered.

180 degrees represented by a ~90 degree angle. Technical illustrator was where?
Work around bugs and bad representation to best patience will allow.

Wrapping it up:

Altogether a good toy. Far more of a programmable animatronic than programmable robot in ROBOT mode. Semantics somewhat. Drone mode allows more control and variant builds, but vast majority of capabilities in Robot Mode disappear including voice control. Not a big issue as I see it. Coolness factor 1.0 but noisy environment non functional.
Can and could be more of a learning system. S.T.E.M. worthiness questionable and limited at that. The sparse Maths in programming language particularly dissuades. There’s some in there. Look harder. It will inspire a few kids into finding out more. Where inspiration is encouragement then yes it encourages STEM.

Can a child learn to program on one of the smart device compatible with Meccanoid and it’s application? ***** Please note the qualifier ‘compatible’.*****
Yes. Programs will have to be simple and will probably require much more thought and planning than should be necessary.

Learned intelligent movement (L.I.M) is cool. It’s Meccanoid’s ‘programming’ feature that doesn’t require a smart device. A series of movements by motor servo position can be recorded and played back. Sound is also recorded through microphone. Servos turn off motor allowing them to be positioned within a range of 180 degrees with little resistance. I don’t consider programming exactly. It is path mapping. Little more than Recorder with playback. Ragdoll allows re-recording over to a point in time by slider bar , but missing any reasonable definition and inability to edit. LIM doesn’t allow stopping, back-track, or re-recording from a point in time so no editing either..

It should be noted that LIM likes to cut off approximately a second to two off the end ofa recording on some firmware. 2.8 firmware doesn’t seem to have that problem.

Lack of Drive (foot motor) control in LIM LIMiting. If LIM can be moved to a programming or at least event scheduler environment that would allow editing or conditionals then it would be programming.
LIM recordings can be included in Drag and Drop programs. The programming part of App lists LIMs by number not given audible name. Write down which is what recording in order helps.
Don’t remember order or which ones? Ask Meccanoid to list them. It will in order by the name given.

Crazy ArRoWs errr, um,  “Drag and Drop” AKA “Behavior” programming environment is NOT polished and lacks basic editing capabilities. It has quirks that may likely lead to a disdain after a period of time. May be a patience endurance test. I have an evergrowing list of Bugs, Quirks, and various dysfunctions.
Frustration is what is NOT wanted for young folk.

If noticed frustration then it’s time to move on to:

*Arduino also Genuino. Uses Meccanoid free Library. The Arduino company has split up a bit. Another topic in itself with the addition that processor manufacturer Atmel (ATMega) and PIC Microchip also are an issue somewhat. A PIC processor can also be used but it has its’ own IDE. Online Support communities vary. Arduino in my opinion the greater. Leaning towards cheap *uino knock offs myself lately.

*Other microcontroller control. Like Texas Instruments (TI LaunchPad) or ESP – 8266/32 by Espressif , or ST Thompson ST8 , or ________ . ESPs being popular due to WIFI and 32s’ bluetooth and dirt cheap.

Many other MCU manufacturers have adopted the open IDE for programming.

Raspberry Pi (Linux) is a ‘virtual machine’ and does best with the help of a microcontroller. It can do some low level but timing gets tricky.
Older model Pi like the B less power then the newer Pi2 (B) but still looking at around 1.5-2 Amps @ 5VDC. Pi2 is faster but likes more power. 2.5A average so far. RPi2 has a little lightnig icon show up on display when power goes brown. Power sucking an issue. AA NiMh not gonna do it for long. Maybe several banks. Probably should check to see how much the little feet motors can handle weight wise.
RPi does have Scratch and other programming languages. Is easily the most supported SOC (system on chip).IMG_20170320_034636

********//// The Arduino Library and “Open Source” Protocol are not complete and have errors. Library does nothing by itself and requires a program written by the User to implement the protocols used by Meccano servos and modules made available by its’ inclusion’ in program. It is not a Meccabrain ™ control program and as of present Meccabrain is a closed system.  The use of Meccabrain name in its declaration in Library is misfortunate and adds toconfusion. \\\\*********

IMG_20170320_035843

*one of the other building systems and respective related controllers and software.
They all have strengths and weakness. Meccanoid not only helps build itself when Meccabrain is running, it is also pre-programmed to perform under Robot Mode.

UNFORTUNATELY if u have original G15 it NEEDS the update from 1.0 firmware via USB and Robot Updater program running on PC.

Meccanoid Expansive? No not directly other than buying more servos. Servos addedmay require some experimenting to get to work with Application. LIM does work tho. Meccabrain 2.0 is out for ~50$US to replace G15 Meccabrain. Not feeling it. A good microcontroller with an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) would be far more useful add on. Adding other erector sets with servos and a better APP would be ideal.

Irregular shaped pieces would likely be substituted out for conventional Meccanoand/or Erector pieces.

Home computer free or self sustained it is NOT. Needs firmware updateminimum. Going further with “drag n drop” programming requires an Application programrunning in another computer smart device with BlueTooth LE (BLE) capability. More devices being incompatible then compatible. Cheap tablet thoughts vanish. This will change as BLE comes to be more standardized in newer devices. No Desktop or laptop versions of programming language available yet, and yet requires USB interface for firmware updates.

Been holding back and is good to let out. I was holding out for would had been fixed. Apologies for all the Quotations but needed to make clear that my terminology may notmatch others or the term-name-intention is not mine. Hopefully helps someone.

IMG_20170320_035535-e2

Yes I could go on, and will. Laters.

Meccanoid G15X2-KS

June 22, 2017IMG_20170617_050555.jpg

Meccanoid G15X2-KS.
Power Dwarf.
Good for pushing over G15KS and XL.

IMG_20170617_050655.jpg
Hah.
X2-KS is for the second G15 that was scavenged for its parts and KS firmware flash to handle four additional servos in KS configuration. Kept short in stature for now.

IMG_20170617_050702.jpg
Stay tuned for G15-X2KS Texan. Which may or may not happen. G15 servos (AKA CAM 03, Blues) aren’t as powerful as G15KS( DEV-06 Yellow) and will go Arduino or ESP8266 with an Arduino. Necessary for what I want to do.IMG_20170617_050709.jpg

I like the KS firmware voice soooooo much better than Lollipod Kid helium huffing IMG_20170617_050730.jpgWizard of Oz G15 voice. Anyway… alternative build.

Systems Check

Another firmware is out for G15: English US G15(and KS)-2.8.

IMG_20170613_062602.jpg
Not exactly sure what this adds or fixes.
It does NOT fix “Adjust Volume” voice command. Still stuck in SET ALARM response.
KS and G15 versions.

The only option to adjust volume right now is download the English UK – 1.9 firmware.  Use “Adjust Volume” voice command in settings menu to set where you like and then re-flash 2.8 firmware. Of course you have to suffer horrid British accented Meccanoid fora bit. Was waiting for to go Mary Poppins song step. Didn’t happen thank goodness.IMG_20170616_171204.jpg

I suggest highest volume and just tape over speaker if needed.
Of course if you speak another language can try flashing that.

The 2.8 firmware has more features than the 1.9 firmware for ROBOT Mode.
If you’re running in DRONE Mode then probably don’t need it.

Sad? Yes. Sadder still: Why is the UK ROM stuck in 1.9 land o the past?  I’m conflicted that it’s useful for back-stepping but don’t fathom why UK version is neglected.

IMG_20170616_041826.jpg

Then out of curiosity I clicked off the different languages through the Robot Updater

and fOuNd:

Language: Firmware Version G15 / G15KS:
English (UK) 1.9 / 1.9
French 1.7 / 1.8
Spanish EU 1.6 / 1.7
Italian 1.5 / 1.6
German 1.4 / 1.5
Russian 1.2 / 1.3
Japanese 1.10 / 1.11
Dutch 1.3 / 1.4
Spanish Americas 1.0 / 1.0
Danish 1.2 / 1.2
Swedish 1.1 / 1.1
Norwegian 1.0 / 1.0
and hopefully to embarass:
English US 2.8 / 2.8

Wow 1.0. Seriously ugly stuff. For the G15-US-1.0 was horrible because of battery voltage reading was set too high and would shut Meccanoid G15 down within a few minutes (about 10-20 minutes) with there being plenty of life left in batteries..

Programmers dropped the ball or ran away?
Somebody must have spooked them or there’s a shortage
of tater chips, popcorn, caffeinated drinks, and coffee in certain places.
Possibly a cheese curls deficiency.
Though reasoning suggests a relatively unknown processor / parts and lack of
documentation in anything other than Chinese is not helping.

IMG_20170616_041836.jpg

Mentioning China and not seeing a Chinese firmware.

Fuse blown there.

IMG_20170616_041846.jpg

NOTE: Flashing new firmware results in Meccabrain doing a diagnostic which must be completed in ROBOT Mode or App will lock out. The completion of startup system check requires all servos for whichever ROBOT (G15 or G15KS) and light bar be in the jacks in accordance with directions. Drone Mode in App will also be locked out.

Meccabrain will operate in Drone mode but not the App.

***No you don’t need to build the robot to complete diagnostic. Need servos, Smart LED bar, battery and of course Meccabrain in proper order as if they were installed in Robot. You can leave the foot motors disconnected but that may change with newer firmwares.IMG_20170617_050801.jpg

I’m sure the hacking community has moved to their own hardware and
only using “smart” servos and Meccanoid pieces. Fairly slow.
I have heard some bitching about parts not being Meccano or Erector style. Only compatible. Pieces aren’t what die-hard fans are used to and don’t exactly promote free thought open build mentality. Shapes are irregular and not typical Erector / Meccano simple shapes. They also have pinned keys limiting use. Interlocking pins of new parts requiring orientation have more to do with slow build times and aggrevation.

That’s my opinion partially based on  evidence.  Half-inch standard still theremostly. Being made of plastic not helping standing with the classic folks.
Poorly documented protocol under the ‘open source’ mantra. Not really open source and is only for Arduino program that communicates (protocol) to servos and light bar.

Meccabrain , not the Arduino program “Meccabrain” , locked out. Not OPEN Source.

Well mostly. There’s no reason why protocols can’t be abused to further capabilities of Meccabrain with other hardware as servos.. Still limited in programming through Application program which really isn’t that good. Usable but unpolished and quirky. Is good thing protocol was released with Arduino code. Meccabrain(tm) mostly for starter use. Any reasonable advanced use limited. Voice control is cool but practicality dysfunctional. It is a decent micro but its stuck pedantic cute-ware and BLE comms thru ‘App’. L.I.M. is nice idea but inability to save off line and transfer to other devices makes it barely useful and anti-social. Yes this robot is anti-social but it can joke about it… so it’s fine. No driving motors control available through LIM but may be hidden. Inability to shut off sound recording whilst programming

IMG_20170617_050746.jpg

in L.I.M. also sucking useless. Inability to add sounds to Meccabrain without motion equally irritating. Tape to the rescue again. Right over the MICrophone hole. Not100% effective but what-eee–ver you need to do to achieve desired results.
**** Limitation of L.I.M is roughly 3 minutes times up to 15 programs. ****
So technically up to 45 minutes of L.I.M time but only 15 labels..Don’t know if that will change.

 

Yes I could go on, and will. Laters.

BAD Meccanoid BAD

April -3 2017

A couple days ago I mentioned that the Meccanoid G15 firmware update was available and said that “Set Alarm” hidden function wasn’t available.
Yesterday if you believe the Post Date. Ha.

booboooo

I found it.

To my dismay.

Is still under settings but responds under the voice function “Adjust Volume”.

Meccanoid responds “Set Alarm”.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO SET ALARM.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO SET A L.I.M FOR THE ALARM.

Attempting to set alarm will result in all kinds of craziness.
Setting an L.I.M for alarm will put a non-erasable L.I.M. in your library.
The only way to get rid of it is to download new 2.7 firmware again and do a full wipe.
A negative side to the new “Robot Updater” is that it won’t allow you to load the last firmware. Maybe it’s because the older one is no longer available on-site. I don’t know.

Sarcasm mode ACTIVATED:

NICE ONE GUYS!!!! Just FREAKIN awesome.

Sarcasm mode partially END.

Oh the shame.

In case your wondering:
“SET ALARM” voice command does nothing.
You’ll be stuck at whatever volume you set until this is fixed.
I have TWO G15 Meccabrain and they both have this new problem.
I didn’t try the G15KS version firmware mainly because I’m not set up for KS.

If you do manage to set the alarm it will stay there and Meccanoid will not allow you to remove it. NOT even after re-flash firmware.

>>> Loud Sigh <<<<<

outtahere

Laters.

G15 Dino

IMG_20170326_031832April -01 2017
Finally got around to building the Meccanoid G15 Dino variant.
The plans are on Meccano site under instructions .

It is at least as cute as humanoid version. Roughly same build time. Maybe a little less.
Noteworthy if Building Dino from already constructed G15 is that it’s not needed to completely disassemble servos. ONLY down to the Yellow rotating bracket. Servo motor, motor mount and white cylinder case stay together. Legs can stay together too.

If your clever you can keep the legs attached feet motors and just remove cross brace.  Saves some time.

IMG_20170320_034357

Tricky points are back bone/carrying handle and left/right head servo wire. Instructions may be a little vague on backbone. Takes a little bit of force to push into place then put a screw in it on the “tail” servo box and there will be some stress on the LED plate up front. Once in place stiffens Dino up and makes for great Dino Carrying Handle.

IMG_20170320_034339
The left/right head servo wire is too tight if you try to route it as shown; though it will fit.  Find the easier and less stressed path.

IMG_20170326_032428
Wired by instructions.
IMG_20170320_034408
What?

Dino has limited functionality without Meccanoid App. Meccabrain must be switched to ‘Drone Mode’ for Dino. Same for any of your own creations. This will limit voice commands but not L.I.M. Meccanoid App Rag_Doll and Avatar don’t work but Slider and Behavior modes do.
Meccabrain looks for the Robot Mode configuration of servos but only in Robot Mode.. If not available then Meccanoid will respond with ” Module_Name is disconnected” if not where it should be or “That’s not where that Goes” if it’s not in the slot it should be in. Module_Name being servo or LED out of place or missing. Is coolest part of assembling Robot. Hard to mess up routing of wire. Dino and any other creations using Drone Mode presently don’t have this feature.
In Robot mode the cables can be connected and disconnected with power on and Meccanoid will update telling you if wiring is not right.
This excludes the foot motors and of course if you disconnect the battery nothing is going to happen. You can also change back and forth from Drone Mode to Robot mode without shutting Meccabrain power off.

IMG_20170320_034820
My that’s a tasty looking battery you got there.

HINT and HELP: If you rename your robot and it doesn’t respond to name you can press any of the Meccabrain buttons to get the robot to listen mode. It’s eyes change color indicating Menu selection and not listening for it’s name.
Then you Change the name again and/or try another name. This might help get Meccanoid’s attention in noisy environments as well.
RAnTinG:
Big butt battery pack problem persists. Worstened in G15 Dino’s instance. Weight on caster wheels instead of drive wheels. Teeter -tottering due to weight being in back and some up front Slips wheels excessively especially in left turn and right turn. Go forward only and your good. Not really No. Not as much. Going slow in behavior mode works.
I used my version of a 5S pack attached cross bar between legs . Removed but pack and clears up most of problem. A better place for C cell pack would be between the legs but need longer screws or possibly duct tape. Quack.

IMG_20170320_034249-m

Apparently the site (Meccano) has undergone some revision towards the newer Meccanoid 2.0. Including the availability of Meccabrain 2.0. Listing about 50$USD. Allowing G15 owners an upgrade path.
I guess. Other than a revised voice control menu-ing system and a few more games and Trivia. I don’t see it. 2.0 Meccabrain has more SPI memory and so can store more data. How much more is useable by the end user? Don’t know yet. In theory should allow more L.I.M. storage. Most likely taken up by extended vocabulary and new Games, Trivia. Unfounded theory and speculation. Don’t have 2.0 yet. G15 has more servo slots that are not present on 2.0 AKA G16.

The G15and KS building plans are still available however the G15 and KS are no longer on their own pages and have been moved to a comparison chart. You’ll need to go to : http://www.meccano.com/instructions select keyword search and enter “G15” in Reference box. Dino plans and original G15/KS Robot plans should show up.

The newest version firmware is 2.7. Get it. It has a few extras including voice commands:
What Time is It
Play A Game
Dance With Me
Hug Me
and the battery Level display is back on App start up.
Hidden command “set alarm” seems to have gone.

Tangent sort of:
Meccasaur coolness. Toddler walker linkage bar setup. Doesn’t really stomp around.   More like a graceless shuffle. Does roar good. Uses a light sensor to detect movement in guard mode. Not exactly a trip point setup. Need to set light source on side opposite Meccasaur across pathway you plan to monitor. Works best in darkened room with single light source.
That is: Meccasuar== > Pathway <=== Light Bulb
In other words: a shadow must be cast over the sensor to activate.

IMG_20170326_032303

Anyhow I like the brow ridge and eyes on Meccasaur better.  Lose the Dino big eyes.

Later.

End for Now.

Meccanoid G15 Brain Surgery

Oh the Horror

Not exactly Brain Surgery.  It is a brain of sorts.

Having trouble with the clock not holding time since day one I knew I’d have to replace the clock battery sooner or later, or so I thought.  Ha.

After updating the firmware flash and downloading the new App; the clock not functioning is now an issue because the drag and drop “behavior” programming has a use for it.  There’s also a hidden function in ‘settings’ menu that allows setting an alarm.  Woo hoo.  I was thinking that would be a nice function about a year ago.  Scary.

I had it apart once before but only for cursory examination  to check the board to see if it was indeed the one that had a clock battery and not a third farad capacitor.  Sure enough it had a battery hard soldered.  Not having an extra one of that type or any other suitable replacement to be soldered in I quickly slapped it back together without much further examination.

Oooops.   Ya.   Assumptions and all that.  Take a look.  Nice solder job.  NOT.

g15-controller-4

Can you see it?  Just above the clock chip.  No?  Look closer to battery to the right of “C24”.

g15-controller-5-1
Somethings aren’t better at higher res just uglier.

How about now?

g15-controller-7-1
Magic.  All purty like.

You know when you give a people a bowl a rice a day and work for 14 or more hours this happens.  I’m just saying.  I could be wrong, but given that the vast majority of chips on this board are China Mart , probably not.

There were some other nice pieces of solder slag laying on the board.  I’ve become accustomed to checking boards from overseas manufacturers.  Not only China.  Please don’t think I’m picking on China.  Many manufacturers produce quality products cheaply.  This is not one of those.  Lots of nice cold solder joints too.

g15-controller-6
Short waiting to happen.

Here’s one the larger pieces for example.  Doesn’t look like much but was laying across traces next to the blob.  The black blob is the CPU/MCU.  It didn’t appear to be attached by anything other green protectant paint layer.  Most were like that and smaller.  Not cool.

Checked the clock battery at 2.85VDC,  not great but good enough for a while.  Not worthy of a replace.    Cleaned up what I thought I should and put it back together.  FWIW that solder slab was shorting to clock crystal to one of the clock IC pins.  The clock does work now.  However the Firmware /ROM has issues.  More on that laters.  ONE Down.  Pencil in another dozen problems.  Sigh.    A few more pics for ya:

g15-controller-3g15-controller-2g15-controller-1

 

New Meccanoid App

Well there’s a new App out for Meccano Meccanoid.  Yeah!!!!

It looks like we finally get to do some real programming on the cell/tablet directed at Meccanoid. Not only VCR style but actually have decision, timer,  input and loops.  No desktop version yet.  If App didn’t run on your device before it probably still won’t.  Sincerest sympathies.

I haven’t got to play with new programming section yet but be sure the whining and criticism will arrive.  Already got some stored up. Where’s that devil emoticon?

Any who…

Best of all it appears to work on the old G15 and new 2.0 series.  I was starting to believe the only way to get anything cool out of G15 was by Arduino only.  I know I’m not the only one feeling the high possibility of being abandoned when the 2.0 series was out and the G15 was discontinued.

So dust off your antiquidated G15, charge up your batteries (or get new ones) and hopefully having not lost usb micro cable, go load up the new firmware.  Yes there is one : G15-2.4.  For G15.

Did you forget how?

Go here and get the updater:

Meccanoid Updater

Load it up and run it.  Meccanoid needs to be plugged in to it’s micro usb port and ur computers USB port.  Use the pulldowns to select your robot.  Select  preferred language. Select the new fangled rom 2.0 and click the down arrow to send it to anxiously awaiting robot.

Don’t get all flustered if the downloading fails the first time.  It failed on me.  Click out and start program again.  Takes a while even on an excessively fast computer.  Meccanoid’s memory is a lot slower than personal computer.  About 3 to 4 minutes.  Seemingly forever because of how long a wait for this has been.  Some have been waiting a year.

When the updater is done it will tell of its’ success.  Unplug USB from Meccanoid and turn him on.  I turned mine off and on again.  Is habbit from other flash memory device updates.  Clears RAM and cold boots processor.

Haven’t got to play ragdoll to see if it improved either.  I’d like to hear your opinions on the new programming section too.

A  LOT less Meccannoyed.  Smiles a little.

Lest I forget:

About !$%^”‘^_-#] Time!  sheesh.  and Thanks.

 

MeccAnnoyed

IMG_20160813_233841
11 hole Meccano strip and 3×7 bent plate and a velcro cord wrap.  Ooo feel the tech.
IMG_20160813_233800
Battery cable with spade connectors

G15 MeccaBattery sucker refit.

What kind of sadistic toy manufacturer … rhetorical?

Relating to the 4 ‘C’ cell butt battery pack.  The G15 is cute and fun in itself.  The build is tedious.  Keeping a ten year old interested for 6 to 11 hours is questionable, and the G15 is the shorter build than the G15 KS.  Then to have the fun cut short by battery.  Sad.  A rechargeable sufficient power battery pack for G15 should have been made available at the beginning.

This article is intended for those who can at least wire and load batteries in flashlight.  It is also for those who find big butted anthropormorphic robots that are not decidedly female are disturbing.

Usual disclaimer:  Don’t do it.  Damage to life, property and unicorns may result.  I’m serious.  Don’t hurt no unicorns.

First thing first go to Meccano.com and download the robot updater:

http://meccano.com/meccanoid-robot-updater

This is essential.   The old rom needs the update if you haven’t already.  It’s a power piggy.  Get the update.  It’s not just for changing the language.

If your an electronics type of people you’ll probably want to know a 6.0V /5 cell 2000mah NiMH pack works well in the G15 Meccanoid without complication.  It’s fused at 2.5A.  A six cell is not recommended due to review of some of the peripherals onboard as well a using a 3V linear regulator which may get hot.  It’s also what is used on the G15 KS.  Which is the same controller as best any one can tell just with 4 extra servos . Look for the leaked schematics from the FCC. 🙂

Yes I am running this minor MODification and have been for many hours now without error or problem other than what was already irritating me whilst running alkaline.

For Instance:  One Noisy servo whining at me and clock which doesn’t hold time which probably means I’ll have to actually crack the brain and pull the defective coin battery.  Yes there is one even though there’s no facility(s) to use it other than to reply to “What time is it?”  Notice that there’s no “What day is it ?” command.  Oh a “wake me at 5 a.m.” clock function would be nice.   But noooooo.  A moving alarm clock would be harder to hit or  smash.

Four ‘C’ cells.  Yaaaa.   Own stock in battery manufacturer do you?  Good quality alkalines will MAYBE get a half hour to 45min. run and those are NOT cheap.  New Meccanoid 2.0 (AKA G16) at least has ‘D’ cells.

Sure,  buy the more expensive KS unit and get some run time.  It uses the 5S NiMH.  Comes with battery charger too.  5S meaning five cell Nickel Metal Hydride.  5C means something different in rechargeable World.  The ‘C’ refers to charge/discharge rate. Which should not be confused with ‘C’ type batteries which refers to physical size.  Stop here if you’re confused.  Intentional.

Using :

5 that’s FIVE commonly available AA size NiMH rated 1200 mAH or better.  I’m using 2200mAH  NiMh.  Charged and ready.  Duh. Could use AA NickelCadmium (NiCd ) but those are usually about half the power rating.  Roundabouts  400-600mAH mostly for NiCd.  Useable.  Rechargeable and more power are the key points.  Work with what is in your possession first.  If NiCd charger and batteries is what you have.  Use them.  I highly suggest NiMH.

NEVER NEVER NEVER

NEVER mix battery types.  Alkaline only with alkaline.  NiCd only with NiCd.  NiMH only with NiMH.   Lead-Acid only with Lead-Acid.  Same size (AA, C, D ) with same size, Try to keep same Amp-Hour(AH or mAh) rating on rechargeables.  Carbon zinc (Zinc chloride/Ammonia Chloride) only with the trash can. They have no place in this.  Ignore this at your own peril/demise.  Burning, exploding, injury, possibly fatality.  Yes I’m laying the scare on thick here and not being unreasonable.    There are other newer cell chemistries which pack more energy per unit but increasingly dangerous as well that I refrain from mention herein.

6 cell AA battery holder with one cell holding jumpered or shorted, or a 4 cell holder with a single cell holder or an eight cell holder with 3 shorted/jumped cell holders.   Getting the idea that 5 cells are needed in series yet?   What’s  ‘series’?  Probably best you not be here or at least type in “series batteries” in your search engine.

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Tamiya mini battery jack.

Tamiya battery connector. mini Female.  Round Ground black.  Square power B+ red. Tamiya on Meccanoid.  Either snagged from battery box or new.  Available at your local Radio Control (RC) hobby shop and online.  For to and so much one could simply get a RC battery and charger from a knowledgeable RC hobbyist working there.  Bring the battery box connector with you.  Saying Tamiya may not be enough.  A 5 cell 6.0v NiMh or NiCd pack that you think u can secure on bot frame.  Not 4 cell.  Not 6 cell.  FIVE. Five Cell.

5.    F-I-V-E  .   5.

Also known as an 5S 6.0v NiMH or NiCd pack having mAH ratings of 1000 and up.  No you don’t need the fancy 20 cell charger and 200amp power supply it needs.   A simple AC wall wart charger and connector with idiot light for on and charged is good ’nuff fer now.  Honestly some of them hobby sellers are worse than used car salesmen.   Yes the cheap chargers suck and are somewhat detrimental to battery life but they work.   Should be able to get out of there around 25-35$USD.

A four cell will work for a bit but on board battery power detection will shut down in a few minutes.   A series four cell pack of 1.2v is nominal 4.8 volts.  That’s a dead set of battery in Alkaline land where 1.5v times 4 is a nominal 6.0v.  Also why jamming four fresh 1.2v rechargeable AA in the C slots of the battery fanny pack  only works for a bit.  Ya sure you didn’t try that.

The disadvantage is being stuck with a battery and charger that may be good for only one thing.  Individual cells are better in my opinion.   They are: configurable, common charger, useable in other devices and projects.  If you and/or others in your dwelling get into this hobby “Robotics” there WILL be other projects needing those batteries and most likely not just in 6.0Vdc.  Then they get bigger and more advanced.  Then the chargers get bigger and more capable,  and then  … well.  Have you seen the Frankentstein movies where there’s huge power arrays, Tesla coils, Jacob’s Ladders,  Townsend gas discharge globes/tubes,  Faraday cages, Van de Graff generators and the like sprawled across the lab floor and an ominous work table on which delicate arranged rats nest of wires in certain spots  with an assortment of slightly smoking soldering irons?  Like that, only more modern and slightly less chance of electrocution.  Slightly.

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Installed.  Plugged in.  Ready.
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Connector with spades for adding or removing items like fuses.

Basically that’s it.  The battery box does have a 2.5A slow blo poly fuse.  That’s a fuse that resets itself assuming the power though it isn’t excessive. It’s up to you if you want to add one in line(series).  An automotive type blade fuse or even an older glass style in the 2A to 3A slow blo range would be good.  Some manufactured battery packs have them in the blister wrap of the battery pack.  I haven’t had my hands on an official K15GS battery pack so I’m without my ball of twine. (no clue).  But, whereas the G15 has one on its’ fanny pack I’ll assume there’s one on the KS as well. At the least the leaked schematics suggest that it is so.  It is a good idea to prevent damage due to shorting on the  the servo outputs which aren’t fused.  Those do have ESD protection on signal line but not fused.  So if ur tinkering in that side please do. Barring stupid  like try to bypass the key way and slamming servo connector in upside down.  I havent fused on my quick rig yet and so picture shows.  When I get to that I will put a fuse.  There is a  mosfet switch and current sense on the v-mot line and v_bat which suggests that there would be a shut off if excessive current was detected by the processor.  Guess there.  Assumption.  The processor , USB, and peripherals have their own fuse and blocking diode.  The servos have their own regulators.

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Polyfuse on G15 4 ‘C’ cell fanny pack.

One could also us a 6v sealed lead acid.  But that’s covered on Youtube by someone else.  The charger and battery can often be bought at department stores and sporting goods where hunting supplies such as deer feeders and camping supplies such as 6v lanterns are sold.  SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) 6v batteries come in several sizes.  4AH being the most available and resembling physically the same size as 6V Alkaline Lantern battery but being able to be recharge a couple hundred times usually less. YMMV. Improper use as in trying to put too many amps out or overcharging usually kills them.  Majority of batteries are rated 20hr rate. Take the 4AH SLA battery divide by 20.  That battery would put out 200ma per hour for 20 hours without harm to battery. That’s less than what your bot wants.  So it’s gonna want more.  The more it sucks the less run time and the less battery life overall.  Same goes for NiCd and NiMH but far less effect on overall life.   Again “cheap charger” can cause issues but with care should be fine.  Most notably some chargers may push the fresh SLA to significantly higher voltages than 6V.  This is temporary effect.  Let the battery sit off charger for ten minutes and is likely to go down to usable voltage less than 7V. SLA are heavy and don’t last as long recharge-wise and cost easily as much as a Five NiMh.  Five times the life or more, and less weight, but only little more than half the power per charge with AA NiMH.  The weight of the SLA may be helpful for traversing rugs.  Helps the wheels from slipping by more friction.  Where it’s put makes a difference.  The robot builders quandary: Power vs. weight vs. run time/ functionality then at cost per unit say WH (watt-hour) and serviceability cost.  That’s just the battery concern for rovers.

Have fun.

There’s a “the the” in there somewhere.  One last butt picture:IMG_20160810_061908.jpg

You been staring at robot but pictures.