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Intelligent Sensor System for Prototyping…Wiimote!

Recently ABLAZE built a stewart platform in the lab to test out a cool advanced technology concept for discharging wheeled/tracked vehicles at-sea.  Once we had the platform physically built and six actuators wired for input, we looked into what types of sensor systems we could quickly assemble that was within our budget.  After some research, we decided that the best solution at this stage of our prototype was a Wii remote (or more commonly referred to as a Wiimote).  Yes, you read that correctly a Wiimote!  A Wiimote is actually a very sophisticated wireless sensor system that includes an IR filtered camera sensor with built-in image processing capable of tracking up to four moving objects and an accelerometer which measures linear acceleration on 3-axises: side to side (X), front and back (Y) and up and down (Z).  At less then $15 a device and an open source interface library that is widely available on Ubuntu, how could we not give it a go?  So now that the basic sensor system is defined, we then needed to design a way to programmically control the six actuators of the platform with the sensor information that would be collected wirelessly by the host software.  For the control system, we decided on using a popular open source microcontroller prototyping board designed in Italy, called Arduino which lists for under $60.  The Arduino has an 8-bit RISC-based microcontroller with on-board input/output (I/O) support that includes digital, analog and pulse-width modulated I/O pins. The board is typically programmed using a Wiring-based language that is similar to C.  After a few weeks of software development we had the platform automatically moving based on the positioning of an IR LED array target, which by the way was a $5 replacement Wii sensor bar.


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