This kind of minicomputers are useful in consumer robotics and can be expanded for anything you need to stay cheap, small, and with a considerable quantity of intelligence. Based on Rex, any robot can support image processing, networking applications, and many more applications aiming to develop skills for any human problem.
The upcoming Rex tries to cover the gap between a simple Arduino board like Arduino UNO and an advanced development platform with powerful hardware control. This means that anyone who uses so far any Arduino board can start to use the Rex without connecting additional shields or additional tools.
What kind of robots can be built with Rex?
The answer for this question is simple. You can build any robot you want. Starting from small autonomous robots, to robots that keep your house clean, or the next-generation of social robots used for example in a classroom.
Even it is a tiny palm-size single board computer, the Rex minicomputer is designed to improve the experience in DIY robots. This means that you will have a full control over microcontrollers, sensors, motors, drivers for motors, and many more hardware and software components involved in your project.
Rex price vs. other boards
You have to pay more money for Rex compared with Raspberry Pi. This higher price can be seen in the experience of making robots, and there is no doubt that Rex can be directly used with a robot programming environment, it has built-in battery inputs, and take less time for wiring.
The $99 price is applied to the basic model that includes a power supply, a serial cable, and the board with OS preloaded.
The real mission of Rex and Alphalem OS is to turn everyone into makers and programmers. The single board computer comes pre-installed with the custom Linux distribution called Alphalem, and related to Alphalem, it has built-in drivers for popular components that may exist into a robot like WiFi adapters or video cameras.
There is no missing the parallel processing ability to carry out multiple operations or tasks simultaneously.
The next generations of the Rex will have real capabilities for AI and Machine Learning applications.
The guys behind the project think to develop a number of ways to make the development more efficient, and it works. The minicomputer has its own development environment accessed from a command line terminal through a PC serial port. This means that between the Rex and PC should exist a USB-to-Serial adapter.
The development environment keeps the same Arduino style for programming and it is compatible with C, C++ and Python programming languages.
For monitoring the tasks that run on the Rex you have available a task manager called MCP (Master Control Program), while for installation of software you have available the standard Linux file system.
Since it was built focused on robotics, a series of libraries are available for common processes like sensor reading, face detection, or I2C communication.
An API for message passing is available for analyzing vast amounts of data in multi-process applications.
You can make an unlimited number of applications in robotics with this little mini brain for robots called simple Rex. It has the ability to run advanced applications like object detection and speech recognition using a video camera or a microphone connected to the ports.
Since sensors or motors are the most common parts in a robot, you have dedicated I2C ports with software protocols for adding components.
Powering the board (6-12V battery) and all the robot components it is also a simple routine. With a high PCB tolerance you can supply with energy anything connected to the terminal blocks rated for 15A.
In general terms, you can interface with the board a wide range of components including here sensors, motors, webcam, microphone, speakers, WiFi antenna, Bluetooth adapter, or install a 32-bit version of an operating system, or run software like ROS or OpenCV.
- Texas Instruments DM3730
- 1GHz 32-bit ARM Cortex-A8 Processor core
- 800MHz DSP core
- 512MB LPDDR RAM
- USB Host port
- MicroSD slot
- Camera Module port
- 3.5mm Stereo Audio-in jack
- 3.5mm Stereo Audio-out jack
- 14-pin GPIO header
- 6-12V Battery Pack Input for mobile development
- 5V Regulated Input for desktop development
Rex will help us to fully realize our visions in robotics and allow you to change the prototype faster than even before. We can take this single board computer as a victory of small electronics that makes things better than ever before.