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Unread 04-26-2013, 08:01 PM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

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Originally Posted by coalhot View Post
My hunch is that the new controller will be a new product in the Rio line. It should be awesome, can't wait to see it!

I am somewhat sad that it's NI though. I would have liked to see a control system that is more non-labview friendly, and I would have liked to see what IFI (and other companies) would have come up with. Maybe it's still something that they will launch in the future as hobbyist tools...
I am unsure why you would want to exclude a language that nearly half the first teams use. How do you know that IFI didn't submit a proposal?
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Unread 04-26-2013, 08:15 PM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

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I am unsure why you would want to exclude a language that nearly half the first teams use. How do you know that IFI didn't submit a proposal?
I doubt that many (half of the) teams use labview. I don't want to start a fight about that here. My point was that I'd like for labview to be an option (like Java or C++), and not something that is heavily stressed because the control system is NI.

Also, I think I worded the second part of my comment badly. Here goes: I really want to see what IFI and other companies came up with. Some of them may not ever release what their idea was because they got turned down for this contract: that would be a shame.

And, can't wait to see what this partnership with Cross the Road brings. CAN Talons please?
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Last edited by coalhot : 04-26-2013 at 08:18 PM.
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Unread 04-26-2013, 08:44 PM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

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Originally Posted by coalhot View Post
I doubt that many (half of the) teams use labview. I don't want to start a fight about that here. My point was that I'd like for labview to be an option (like Java or C++), and not something that is heavily stressed because the control system is NI.
Actually, more then 50% of teams use LabVIEW. FIRST keeps track. http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/sh...6&postcount=78
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Unread 04-26-2013, 08:46 PM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

NOOOOO, just as I was fully learning the potential of the crio..... just kidding, really excited to see what's in store for the future!
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Unread 04-26-2013, 11:38 PM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

I talked to the guys at the Cross the Road Electronics booth today. I can confirm that they are planning on having two versions of the Talon in the future: a pwm version and a CAN version.

I also took pictures of the informational posters they had out about the new control system (what they were allowed to say about it at least).
Control System Overview: http://i.imgur.com/eA3Bvfu.jpg
Power Distribution: http://i.imgur.com/bWDHpSt.jpg
Pneumatics: http://i.imgur.com/276hmyB.jpg
New things: http://i.imgur.com/YEtaHrp.jpg

I can try to elaborate more if someone asks for particular information.
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Unread 04-26-2013, 11:40 PM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

So Cross The Road had a table set up today and was answering questions about their part in the new control system. CTRE will be providing the new PD board and Pneumatics Control Module, along with the Talons and a new team-friendly configurable voltage regulator. I got some pictures of their info displays on my phone camera: http://imgur.com/a/pTtAL

The new controller will be called the Athena (the NI guy was supposed to mention this during Opening Ceremonies). CTRE didn't have much to say about it, since NI is doing the development for that. There is a small graphic in the album about its capabilities though (USB support!). The new system will be heavily based on CAN, as you'll see below. As far as I know, the current languages will be supported, and adding new ones is on the table.

The PD board is probably the most exciting part of this. At the lowest level it's identical to the current board, just a bit smaller physically (they had a plastic mockup at the table). They've added a microcontroller with the capability to monitor current, temperature, battery voltage, and breakers and save 60 matches worth of data on the board itself, along with data about the robot's state. It interfaces with the Athena via CAN, which can read out the data live or be viewed later for debugging.

The Pneumatics Control Module is also operated over CAN. It has 8 outputs, handles the compressor/pressure switch internally, and has a 24 volt boost regulator onboard. The outputs can be configured for either 12v or 24v operation (I neglected to ask if this was for the whole module or per output). Like the PD board, it also collects diagnostic data.

As for motor controllers, the only thing known for sure is that the current Talon SR will be available for use. They're hoping to make a CAN version of the Talon, but want to move away from the current RJ-11 connectors first. A version of the Talon with capabilities similar to the Jaguar is also on the table (sensor inputs, onboard closed-loop, etc).

If there's any other questions, I can swing by the table tomorrow and ask them. I'm also going to see what info I can get out of the NI booth about the Athena itself.

EDIT: oops, got ninja'd
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Last edited by Radical Pi : 04-27-2013 at 12:03 AM.
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Unread 04-26-2013, 11:50 PM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

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Originally Posted by Radical Pi View Post
If there's any other questions, I can swing by the table tomorrow and ask them. I'm also going to see what info I can get out of the NI booth about the Athena itself.
Thanks for the summary. Do you have any idea on weight and size of this new system? I really like this, particularly the pneumatics module.
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Unread 04-26-2013, 11:58 PM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

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Originally Posted by Gregor View Post
Thanks for the summary. Do you have any idea on weight and size of this new system? I really like this, particularly the pneumatics module.
I wasn't supposed to see this, but I might have seen a full size mockup of a prototype for the Athena board... If what I saw was correct, it was a black square about 5-6" on each side and about 1-1.5" tall. It looked like it integrated functionality of the cRIO and the sidecar into it, so it should be much much lighter than that combined weight. I don't remember much else since it was only flashed for a couple seconds and I wasn't expecting it at all.
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Unread 04-27-2013, 03:32 AM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

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Originally Posted by Meshbeard View Post
I also took pictures of the informational posters they had out about the new control system (what they were allowed to say about it at least).
Control System Overview: http://i.imgur.com/eA3Bvfu.jpg
Power Distribution: http://i.imgur.com/bWDHpSt.jpg
Pneumatics: http://i.imgur.com/276hmyB.jpg
New things: http://i.imgur.com/YEtaHrp.jpg
Outstanding work by CTRE and a big thank you! This will make things like custom circuits/coprocessors significantly easier in the future (one of the ugly hurdles has always been the extra volume/weight of power conversion modules, the VRMs sound like the perfect solution). I love the additional CAN modules, particularly the pneumatics one and the addition of data logging. CAN has been a robust solution in the automotive industry for many years and it's good to see it gaining more traction in FRC.

I remain cautiously optimistic about NI's Athena.. while the new form factor is a really good idea (merging digital sidecar + crio = great!), and having integrated USB and CAN available is excellent news, what I really want to see is (a) if it's Linux based (rather than VxWorks) and (b) if boot times have been significantly improved. Linux would make life so much easier for development (out-of-the-box excellent USB driver support, robust TCP/IP stack, easier porting of tools/languages, a decent interactive shell prompt, non-kernel-mode code for easier debugging, better memory management, code reloads in any language without rebooting--just kill the user process and restart it, the list goes on), and we all complain about the current cRio boot time. However, I'm not holding out hope for either at this point given the "cRio platform" reporting so far.
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Unread 04-27-2013, 05:13 AM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

I really need to get to the vendors booths today!

I like the idea of the size reduction of combining the processor and interface board. But the downside is that if you blow an interface, you have to replace/repair the whole thing. We've fried a couple sidecars, no damage to the cRio.....consider the relative cost of the two parts
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Unread 04-28-2013, 05:24 PM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

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I like the idea of the size reduction of combining the processor and interface board. But the downside is that if you blow an interface, you have to replace/repair the whole thing. We've fried a couple sidecars, no damage to the cRio.....consider the relative cost of the two parts
One common way to ruin a Digital Sidecar is to put battery voltage on any of its "ground" pins and fry its reverse power input protection. Integrating it could make that specific reverse power protection unnecessary* and thus remove a failure mode.

* It could be combined with a protection circuit for the entire device that is less susceptible to permanent damage.
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Unread 04-28-2013, 10:48 PM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

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Originally Posted by Meshbeard View Post
I wasn't supposed to see this, but I might have seen a full size mockup of a prototype for the Athena board... If what I saw was correct, it was a black square about 5-6" on each side and about 1-1.5" tall. It looked like it integrated functionality of the cRIO and the sidecar into it, so it should be much much lighter than that combined weight. I don't remember much else since it was only flashed for a couple seconds and I wasn't expecting it at all.
This excites me. Making an "electronics box" seems like it might be more feasible for some teams! Or at least easier.

Also, hopefully Jaguars will be repackaged or something to make them easier to deal with-- it's a minor thing, but their irregular shape makes them rather annoying to line up and place effectively-- or maybe I'm just missing something.

Last edited by cadandcookies : 04-28-2013 at 11:07 PM. Reason: added things about jags instead of making a new post
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Unread 04-28-2013, 11:27 PM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

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I am somewhat sad that it's NI though. I would have liked to see a control system that is more non-labview friendly
Why? NI has done a wonderful job taking a product that wasn't FRC-Specific and bringing it into FRC. It was a little clunky but by far the most powerful system FRC has seen yet. What I loved about it - Its not FRC Specific. cRIO and LabVIEW are used in real world environments, its a true hands on experience. I can't wait to see what they come up with for the new system. From what I heard so far its absolutely amazing. My only concern - with it being all CAN based and the pneumatics module being the way it is - its becoming too "plug-and-play" for my taste. Theres no real electrical work.

As for the "non-labview friendly" statement, I don't know why you would want to limit your options. LabVIEW is built by NI and used with NI products, it shouldn't have issues. If there are, you know exactly who to contact.

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Originally Posted by coalhot View Post
I doubt that many (half of the) teams use labview. I don't want to start a fight about that here. My point was that I'd like for labview to be an option (like Java or C++), and not something that is heavily stressed because the control system is NI.
LabVIEW is no more stressed than any other language. When you set up your control system in week 1, the manual offers setup instructions for each language with no bias.

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And, can't wait to see what this partnership with Cross the Road brings. CAN Talons please?
If I remember correctly, CAN talons are coming its just a matter of when.
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Unread 04-28-2013, 11:51 PM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

I'm encouraged by what I saw at the CTRE booth, and I'm intrigued by the few things to come out of the NI camp. I'm hopeful that the net result will feature fewer hard-to-detect gotchas (current monitoring on the PD board could be HUGE for diagnosing electrical problems and preventing magic smoke!)
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Unread 04-29-2013, 12:00 AM
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Re: NI releasing/designing new controller for FRC

This new control system has the potential to make many robots more "robotic" rather than "RC cars with arms". Control systems are a very tricky concept, even for many in college, so I think that the move to make them more accessible to high schoolers is a great idea.

I had been pretty excited about AM's new shifter, but this definitely takes the cake.
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