Meet Linkbot

DSC00235Hello everyone! AppleSauce here.  I’ve recently joined Barobo to help them with marketing strategy. As part the process of getting to know the company, I’ve been given a small robot called the Linkbot and an application called “Linkbot Labs”. My mission is to dive into the Linkbot Labs ecosystem to explore, learn, and write about my experiences. As it so happens, I also happen to perfectly fit the demographic targeted by Linkbot Labs: A non-technical person interesting in learning some introductory programming and robotics.

Screenshot from 2015-09-08 16:04:14

The Linkbot looks like a really simple device. It’s maybe a little smaller than a softball with two motors on the sides of the Linkbot and a few buttons and unique serial ID on top. Linkbot Labs downloaded and installed onto my Windows 10 machine without a hitch.

My first impression of the opening screen of Linkbot Labs was that it seemed a little barren. However, after reading the “Getting Started” section, I figured out how to add my robot to the “Robot Manager”. Once I added my robot’s Serial ID to the list, I was able to open the Robot Controller and control the robots motors, buzzer, and read the accelerometer values on the dialog. It seems that this dialog can be useful if I just want to drive my Linkbot around, and make beepy noises but that’s about it. Still, it’s neat because it let me immediately be able to drive my Linkbot around and annoy my coworkers from across the office.

I then figured out that you have to click on the “Add Learning Pathways” button to display more content.  It gave me the options of enabling the “Getting Started”, “C-STEM Pathway”, “Python Pathway”, and “Coming Soon Pathway”. Although I’m only really interested in learning Python right now, I went ahead and enabled all of them because, what the hey, why not?

Screenshot from 2015-09-08 15:47:07

I dove straight into “Intro Python”. The curriculum guided me, step by step, on basic programming concepts and clearly defined the jargon used in programming. This is where Barobo’s Linkbot Labs platform shines. The cool thing about this is that it’s self guided and complete with exercises and assignments. Each code example is accompanied by a “Run” button that immediately makes the robot perform the tasks written in the code. Some of the code examples have editable fields so that you can try changing a number and see how it affects the way the Linkbot behaves.

The first few lessons are all about how to make the Linkbot beep. In the very first lesson, a piano keyboard is displayed with a small, 3-line code snippet. When the virtual piano is clicked, the robot magically plays the note that is clicked. I am proud to announce that in just a couple minutes, I was able to perform my own weak rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. I then noticed that as I was clicking on the piano buttons, the code snippet was dynamically updating, displaying the necessary code to play the piano note I just clicked on. Clicking on the “Run” button runs the code and plays the last tone I had just clicked on the piano.

The examples so far have introduced not only some programming concepts like loops, but also more than a little interesting information about sound waves, music, and math. I was able to learn at my own pace, and had the freedom to tinker with my own robot.

Linkbot Labs Piano Example

Linkbot Labs Piano Example

 

After taking it out for a spin, I can see its potential. So far, I haven’t actually written a line of my own Python code, but I feel like the interactive Linkbot+Python examples I’ve worked through have given me a taste of things to come, and I’ve become familiar with how Python “looks”. Looking ahead in the Pathway, it looks like I will begin writing my own complete Python programs when I get to the “Beginner Python” section.

I will be actively working through the curriculum and writing about my experiences over the next few months. I hope you can take something from this, as we are learning with Linkbots together.

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