Institute for Personal Robots in Education Blog

Surveyor SRV-1 Robot: First Impressions

In this post, I'll take a look at the SRV-1 robot from The SRV-1 Starter Kit costs $375 (additional robots are $295, and educational discounts are available). The kit comes with the robot, USB wireless connection and recharger, pictured here:

The SRV-1 is the first robot offering from Surveyor. It is tread-driven, small, and sturdy. The SRV-1 falls into a new niche in advanced robots for education and research in that it has a low-cost camera that requires no additional special hardware, except for the included USB wireless connection. In the past, if you wanted to use a camera on an autonomous robot, your choices were generally limited: you could use an onboard webcam (which required a laptop); or you needed an analog wireless connection with a special "frame capture" board.

The SRV-1 comes with a 60 MIPS ARM7 32-bit processor, a digital video camera, infrared (IR) sensors, and a Zigbee 802.15.4 wireless communications connection. All of this fits on a dual-motor tracked mobile robotic base. The camera can used with resolutions from 80x64 to 320x240, with the prospect of increasing that to 640x480 later. The IR can be used for obstacle detection, or for finding a beacon. The beacon could be a static IR signal, or another SRV-1.

The robot is controlled through a serial-over-wireless communication protocol that is easy to use. It comes with a Java client for quickly testing out the robot. In addition, it also comes with a server so that the robot can be controlled from anywhere on the internet. This web connection allows anyone to use the robot as a live video feed. Keep an eye on those cats while you're at the office! All of the source code is provided.

Setup wasn't too painful, but required a firmware upgrade before I could get started. This required placing a jumper across two pins and downloading and loading a new compiled firmware server on SRV-1. Under Windows, the USB wireless required a couple of drivers, but installed easily. Under Fedora Core Linux, nothing was required---it worked without installing anything.

The company is great at providing information. It hosts an on-line magazine/blog, forum, and FAQ.

The SRV-1 is undergoing rapid development from an enthusiastic company. This is good and bad. The bad news is that the SRV-1 is still rough around the edges. For example, you need to know that the switch position marked "CHG" really means "OFF". The good news is that the company is very responsive to requests, and is very engaged with its users. When I had questions or comments, Surveyor responded very quickly, any time day or night. I expect the SRV-1 to get even better soon.

One can write programs, upload them to the SRV-1, and run them directly on-board. I didn't test that out yet, but I did write an interface that allows the SRV-1 to be controlled remotely via Python. (We'll be releasing those interaces soon for our system Myro, and Pyro.)

Surveyor is also planning an interface with the Microsoft Robotics Studio. This will plug the robot into a variety of additional software capaibilities.

For use in a CS1 environment, I did wish that the SRV-1 had a few enhancements. I wished that it had a speaker for at least making beeps, and wished that it had a small screen or LEDs for easy debugging while it was running. Also, those interested in robotics may find the lack of wheel encoders limiting. (Wheel encoders allow the robot to keep track of roughly where it is, so that it could do mapping or other tasks based on localization.) However, it does include some clever vision-based obstacle detection code. In addition, Surveyor has also said that a future SRV is in the planning stages and may include wheel encoders.

The SRV-1 looks like a great platform for research or education, with a good price. It comes ready to use (no assembly like the LEGO Mindsotorms). Although it costs quite a bit more than the Parallax Scribbler, you do get a wireless connection, camera, and internet-based vision.

Keep a watch here for future work on the SRV-1, including a soccer match...

Have you tried the SRV-1

Fri, 2007-06-01 14:41
Rich Scherl (not verified)

Have you tried the SRV-1 with Pyro?


Not yet...

Fri, 2007-06-01 15:19

The SRV-1 now works fine with Myro, but haven't done the port over to Pyro. But now that I know someone is waiting for it, it shouldn't take too long :)

SRV-1 Pyro

Sun, 2007-08-12 04:51
Byron (not verified)

I have a SRV-1 and I have tried Myro( I like it but I am really interested in the undocumented simulator). Over the last 4 years I have been eying Pyro for windows but could not justify the steep learning curve just to simulate a red block( the pyro windows simulated robot). I would be very interested in running SRV-1 via pyro. I think that it would overcome the vision processing issues with the windows version. RoboRealm ,pyro and SRV-1 would be a great research system and one that would be worth investing time into.

Please let me know when and if you write the SRV-1 driver for pyro.

Thanks Byron
PS I looked at the MS Robotics studio and I do not see its advantage over open source systems such and Myro or Pyro. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

I want to buy one set Surveyor SRV-1 Robot

Wed, 2008-05-28 01:16
susan (not verified)

please quote to me .

A Few Issues with the Surveyor

Mon, 2007-06-25 16:06

I used the Surveyor today for, essentially, my first time. I generally like the robot; it's a cute, squat mobile. It boasts of its technical inner-workings, showing them on its outside. At the same time, all those tiny chips and resistors make the SRV-1 appear rather fragile, but its sturdy tank-style tracks -- in place of the typical wheels -- speak otherwise.

The Surveyor moves in a pretty straight line and has obstacle (infrared) sensors in four directions. It's neat that it has a camera, too, and even (at least with Myro) has a feature to locate a particular color within its field of view; that combined with the ball-scooper in front might make it a good robotic soccer-player. Yet I have a few complaints, which may, if unsolved, reveal the SRV-1 to be a rather poor soccer jock.

First, it can't move at low speeds (it sits, unbudging and beeping lightly, if you tell it to move slowly). Second, it doesn't appear to be getting camera input quickly. These two issues make it difficult to gather data about moving objects, such as the orange golf-ball I'd intended to have the Surveyor follow. Third, the SRV-1, when in motion, will stop on occasion for no apparent reason. It may have to do with its connection to the computer, or there may be some other reason. As a disclaimer, some of these issues could relate to the adaptation of Myro to the SRV-1 technology, and so may be improved upon.

In any case, the little Surveyor seems a fun toy but has its problems.

Suggestion about the SRV-1

Mon, 2007-07-02 10:59

Natasha and I have been playing around with the Surveyor for the past week. Natasha describes some of the issues that we faced with the Surveyor above. Even though we didn't face any battery issues with the Surveyor, I think that it might be a good idea to have an indicator that tells the user that the battery of the robot is low. I only say this because low battery did give issues with the Scribbler and if the SRV-1 works in the same manner, it would be a good idea to have an indication that the battery needs to be charged.

A Way that Battery Status Informing Can Work

Tue, 2007-07-03 09:20

I really like the idea of having a way to detect battery status. A number of times when using the Scribbler, I got frustrated and confused seeing it go berserk, only to realize that its red light was flashing, signaling low battery. Also, it would be really helpful / informative to know just how low the Scribbler's battery is at a given time; with battery level in mind, you can plan out how long you'll have a sane robot at hand, and so you can figure out how imperative it is to find new batteries. I'm sure there would be similar such issues with the Surveyor, too.

When talking with Professor Kumar yesterday, he mentioned that they intend to add a function in the Myro library for the robot to return the battery status. That would be helpful in solving the above-mentioned battery issues. That could probably then be used for both the Scribbler and the SRV-1 (and other robots that will work with Myro). Perhaps they could even work in a function to display a certain lighting on the Scribbler and, as you suggested, on the SRV-1 (if a light diode could easily be added), according to the battery level.

SRV-1 comments

Thu, 2007-07-12 11:50
Howard Gordon (not verified)

It's fairly simple to add a battery level detector - take a look at the Panasonic MN13812 chip. It has an internal voltage reference, and only needs a couple of external resisters in a bridge to measure the battery voltage. There's a digital output that can drive an LED circuit of feed back into the processor. We're building a motor speed detection circuit board that will include the battery level detector, and hope to have prototypes in a few weeks.

With regard to the occasional pauses, that's just something in the robot firmware that can be easily fixed by commenting out a single line of code in main.c. Just after the restart: label, comment out the following line. We'll correct this in the next firmware update ...

// setPwmDutyPercent(0, 0);

Finally, with regard to image processing speed, the onboard processor captures images at 5-10 frames per second because there's a 921kbps interface between the camera and processor, but the Zigbee radio operates at a bit less than 100kbps, so there is a delay from the time that the image is transferred from camera to processor, and then from processor to host via radio at the lower data rate. The onboard image processing actually occurs pretty quickly, but you'll see delays on the host display.

Is there any way to remove

Thu, 2009-03-26 03:37
Is there any way to remove delays on the host display ? Essay Types

it would be a good idea to

Sun, 2009-03-22 15:59

it would be a good idea to have an indication that the battery needs to be charged.
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When I had questions or

Wed, 2009-04-01 04:12
When I had questions or comments, Surveyor responded very quickly, any time day or night. I expect the SRV-1 to get even better soon. regards, Dissertation writing

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