WIFI communications car

Discussion in 'Embedded Systems and Microcontrollers' started by achilles, Sep 30, 2008.

  1. achilles

    Thread Starter New Member

    Sep 30, 2008
    3
    0
    I am a very new to making my own electronics and am looking for some help getting started on an ambitious project I have. What I am trying to do is create a completely mobile communication car. In other words I will take the chassis of an RC car and add WIFI capability to it. The WIFI will be used to remotely control the car's movements, an attached web camera (using a standard USB port if possible), microphone (using standard audio input jack if possible), and speakers (using standard audio output jack if possible). Now I am already very experinced with programming computers and can handle that aspect, just not the hardware aspect of the project. Is there such a microcontroller that anyone can think of which would let me have all the necessary ports (including one for WIFI and some way to control the car)?

    Any help at all with this would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks,
    Achilles
     
  2. scubasteve_911

    Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
    1,202
    1
    Yes, this is ambitious.

    A microcontroller isn't a PC, you need to understand their limits. An audio jack or wifi port may be 'standard' on a PC, but on a microcontroller, you need to implement the functionality from a much lower level.

    I recommend using a single board computer, then running your app from that. You can get them pretty low power and small in size. Otherwise, you will have a lot to learn from a hardware point of view. Why do you need audio anyways?

    Steve
     
  3. achilles

    Thread Starter New Member

    Sep 30, 2008
    3
    0
    I realized I was stretching my luck when asking these requirements of a microcontroller, which is why I posted here for more ideas and help. I need audio because the idea is to be able to communicate with someone in front of the RC car and be able to see them and the surroundings at the same time (though the person wouldn't be able to see the person controlling the RC car).

    You mentioned using a single board computer instead of a microcontroller. Which route would be more cost effective (and all around better) regardless of the learning curve required? I am looking to get my feet wet in the area of hardware so to speak so learning what I need to do is not a problem.

    Thanks,
    Achilles
     
  4. scubasteve_911

    Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
    1,202
    1
    Hi,

    Cost effectiveness depends on volume and how long the solution will last. If you are going into production volumes and have time and money, then do something custom. If you are wanting to get a 'proof of concept', then stick to a single board computer. This way your USB webcam, wireless, and audio in/out is much easier to work with.

    If you are to try this with a microcontroller, then you will most likely not have enough processing ability to stream all of that data. Remember, webcams have high bandwidth requirements (640 X 480 X 24 X 30)221 Mb/s ~27MB/s. Plus, you're audio which is about (44.1K X 16bit) 0.7Mb. Clearly, you need to compress the data from a raw format. To send this over WIFI would be impossible without great compression (H.264?)

    If you are trying to make a product out of this, then I recommend you build a prototype or proof-of-concept. Then, market it for some investors. If they like the idea and want to commercialize it, then they will invest towards re-engineering it. To expedite this process, keep good documentation and try to write portable code.

    Good luck!,

    Steve
     
  5. achilles

    Thread Starter New Member

    Sep 30, 2008
    3
    0
    That makes sense. Currently though, this is only a personal endeavor (unless when completed it is really popular). I was wondering if you could suggest a single board computer that would be applicable to this project or a good site which sells a variety of this type of equipment.

    I very much appreciate all the help you have provided me today.

    Thanks again,
    Achilles
     
  6. scubasteve_911

    Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2007
    1,202
    1
    No problem!

    I am doing a similarily difficult project and selected an intel atom processor in a mini-itx form factor. At the time it was my best choice, but I am finding it a bit bulky and one of the chipset ICs is a power hog. Nonetheless, it was dirt cheap 75$ + 40$ 160G HD + 30$ 1G ram, so you can't really go wrong.

    http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=30092&vpn=BOXD945GCLF&manufacture=Intel

    For a lower performance, yet many times smaller and sleek, you can get this.

    http://www.logicsupply.com/products/px10000g

    Please post your results! This would be exciting to see.

    Oh yeah, before I forget. You still need to interface your motors with your computer. You can probably find a ready-made solution for this. It would be pretty easy to set up a RS-232 interface on a microcontroller and pwm some h-bridges. Or, you can use a CP2102 USB-UART bridge, which acts as a virtual com port and interface to your micro that way. I don't recommend trying to run USB to a micro, it's a pain, trust me, I've done it :(

    I would use a wireless network card to communicate to a router, then stream the data that way. I am not too fluent with app design, so I leave that one in your hands

    Take care,

    Steve
     
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