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Robotics Tutorials - Beginner - Hardware - Robots Brains

Building robots is great fun, but just imagine a robot that can 'think' for its self. Adding a brain to your robot need not be a hard process, and will allow your robot to follow instructions and rules. Basically, robot brains come in two forms, analogue and digital.

Analogue Brains

It is possible to control your robots actuators (motors etc) using 'hard wired' circuits. By making circuits from capacitors, transistors and resistors you can make robots that can follow simple rules. For example, if they hit a wall a simple switch positioned on the front of the robot would be pressed in and the robot would be able to reverse and turn, hopefully avoiding the obstacle on its next pass.

Analogue brains have their disadvantages though. They require quite a good knowledge of electronics to design, and once they are built are very difficult to change. If you want to change the behavior of your design you will probably need to totally rebuild your analogue brain.

Analogue circuits are generally not recommended for beginners in electronics or robotics.

Luckily for experimental roboticists there is another option: Digital Brains

Digital Brains

Devices called micro controllers make perfect 'brains' for robots. They are small computers on a single chip, containing their own memory and processor, and can be programmed by a PC to control your robot in any way you can imagine.

What makes micro controllers so good is that they can be re programmed again and again with just a click of a mouse. There is no need to get the soldering iron out and start messing with components like analogue circuits.

Programming these chips is fairly easy to learn, but may take a bit of patience to fully understand. Learning to program by sticking your head in a textbook and trying to memorize programs is a very slow and boring way to learn. By far the easiest way to master programming is to have a go, work through a few tutorials and try out some examples. By playing about and trying ideas you'll soon get an understanding of how programs work, and how you can write your own.



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