Wearables in FRC

Alternative title: How I learned to stop worrying about anonymous accounts and love off-season CD…

For the past few seasons some of our students have engaged in some research projects around wearable technology. Both haptic feedback for the drivers as well as connecting our drive team to sensors for data acquisition and analysis.

How do you amend the current rules for FRC to make it more friendly for this kind of research and technology usage? Currently, drivers must stand away from their controllers and can’t be connected to them. Wireless usage in the driver stations is prohibited as well.

What kinds of wearable technology are you or your team using today and how are you using them? Is anyone using fitbits and the like to track their drive team throughout an event?

This year I used a smartwatch at competition for the first time. I found a few really good uses. (BTW I was coaching when I used most of this)

  1. I turned on match score notifications on the Spyder app and used the notifications on my watch as a way to keep track of where we were in the match schedule. This provided a more accurate measure than time for keeping track of when we needed to cue. I found this extremely useful, especially in places like District Champs and Worlds where you had no idea what was happening from the pits or practice fields.

  2. I also had Slack notifications turned on which made it easier to see messages immediately. I also experimented a little with using it to easily view scouting info for pre-match driver meetings. Our strategy guy would message the info and it would be right there for me. I found this nicer than having to open my phone and then open the app, but it was really just a convenience thing.

I have not really used my watch for on-field applications, partially because I have been really cautious with the rules. I tried to not look at my watch at all on the field because I did not want to break the rules.

Pro Tip: This is not really a wearable thing, but one amazingly useful trick I figured out this year is to set a screenshot of your match schedule as your phone lock screen. It only saves you a few seconds each time, but times 100 times over 3 days it really makes a difference.

What watch we’re you using?

Alternative title: Why 900 is one of the coolest teams in FRC.

So the current rules seem to be in place for a few reasons-

  1. So people don’t “cheat” and control their robots during autonomous
  2. So people don’t accidentally control their robots during autonomous

As is, however, there have been exceptions to this rule, including Kinect/Cheesyvision feedback in previous years, and the simple rule that says you can save your driver station from falling if that’s likely to happen.

I think there could be some clause in the rules that allows for cool technology like this to be encouraged with special permission from the LRI or something like that, with the honor system applied here, as it already is in so many areas of FRC.

Moto 360 with an iphone, so I am sure people with more integrated systems can find using a smartwatch at competition even more useful.

Don’t they have a big wearables trade at the Championship every year? I’ll trade you a 2363 wearable for a 900 wearable.

You know, I don’t have a 2363 wearable… We should make that happen.

Here is some food for thought:

At one time, there was a short delay after autonomous, it was probably for scorekeeping, but such a delay could be used as a chance for drivers to connect wearables to the driver station without missing match time. Seems like the simplest way to tweak the rules to accomodate wearables without drastic changes to controls or match play.

You mean like one of those FPS Feedback vests? I guess feeling like you got shot would be great motivation to not miss…
Back on topic, however, closest I’ve heard of for “wearable” FRC tech were the old pseudo-HUD glasses that seem to have mostly fallen out of favor. The concept was cool enough though; stick a LED on a pair of safety glasses or a clip and it turns green when you’re on target, red of you’re not.

Personally, I find my smart watch incredibly useful at competition. Match alerts and score up did Ares are only a small part of it, but they let me track what’s going on at my event, as well as other events with teams I care about, all in a minimally invasive way.

Perhaps the biggest benefit to me, as an LRI, is the quick and easy communication it gives me with the field during practice day. While I’m running around in the pit trying to get teams to pass inspection, I can get short text messages from the field alerting me to issues I need to solve. “Team 9876 bumper number”, “team 6789 starting config”, and other such messages allow me to quickly and easily address teams that maybe haven’t even come up to start inspection, and get them working on fixing things.

And of course there’s the step tracking… It’s always amazing to see how much I walk around during competition!

Yeah, but competitions also inflate my average and my watch makes me walk more on other days because of it.

This year at a competition we were asked that the drive team not wear smart watches. As none of us had one, I assume it was something they were asking of all teams.

That Pro Tip is a good one. I would say that I’m going to use it, but I’m sure to forget by March of next year. I’ll be happy if I remember by June of this year.

Did you hear that at a driver’s meetings? I never heard anything about it at my competitions and I never was confronted about wearing one. Since no one said anything, I just did not USE my watch on the field as the rules say rather than not WEAR it.

Head ref asked before the start of a match. They probably saw somebody wearing one and were being proactive about the outside communications rule.

I imagine that sometime in the near future, FIRST is going to have to directly address the legality of drive team wearing smartwatches. As more people start to get them, it is going to get harder to enforce the no use policy. FIRST will either need to ban them on the field or set specific rules as to what is and isn’t allowed in regards to them.

We use the rumble in our xbox 360 controller to notify the operator when we have a ball in the intake. The LED’s on the robot change color too, but sometimes the LED’s are hard to see across the field (aka Drawbridge).


We’ve done that too. We’d like to do more but it’s difficult at the moment though we have some ideas about how to make it happen.

Fun fact, in 2014 we were beta testing the new control system and one of the promised features was an update to enable rumble on controllers. It didn’t come out when anticipated so we filed a bug report/request to get it added with a reason of “our driver is blind”. I don’t recall the answer we received but it was pretty funny at the time.

Oh man, have I been waiting for a thread like this for a while. So this year, the programming team for 540 used wearables for the drive team itself. We used the Vuzix m100 smart glasses which run on Android as a substitute for the driver station’s dashboard. Essentially, information such as whether we had a ball in the intake or if we were aligned to shoot were sent to the Vuzix smart glasses and were displayed as lights in the Android app we developed. This implementation was AFAIK legal because it used a wired connection (port forward from laptop to smart glasses using ADB interface through a USB cable) and the secondary driver didn’t put it on until after autonomous ended (took him like one whole second). I’m super excited to have led this project and hopefully our team will use such technology in future years to provide intuitive data to the drivers! Don’t hesitate to PM me about how the smart glasses were implemented because I’d love to explain it and hopefully increase the usage of cool new technology in FRC :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

EDIT: For anyone wondering what this looked like to the driver, imagine holding your phone in landscape mode almost an arms length away in the top right of your FOV. It was very natural for the secondary driver to glance up to check if we were aligned to shoot or if we successfully picked up a ball into the intake

Could you use a FatShark RC viewer to replace a monitor to view video feed from the robot? Here is a lik to check out the products:

I don’t think those would be allowed. The main reason is that it prevents the drivers from viewing the field which is a safety issue. We ran into a similar problem last year when developing with the Oculus Rift DK2.