The hardest part of being a somewhat new writer is knowing what the blog title should be. Some of the top blogs in the internet today have titles that make you want to click on them immediately, but it took me a while to find my own. Although I’m still not sure it’s the right title, I’ve put together a little short story that I hope will help you decide if I should be your favorite writer.
A lot of people ask me what a certain gadget or software is like. I also get asked to give them a Gmail or Facebook account, so I can test it out. So, I went and volunteered to give the GMail and Facebook accounts for a week to an old friend so I could test out the Gmail and Facebook apps. (I know, I know, I should have just given them cash, but I wanted to see if I could make it as a tech blogger.)
The Samsung Gear S3 is one of the most exciting smartwatches released in 2017. It has a 1.3-inch Super AMOLED display, an Intel Atom Z3580 processor inside, and a whole bunch of other features. But is it for you? I tested the Gear S3 over the course of several days, and here’s what I found.
The Freenove Robot Dog kit is unique in its format, as it is a dog rather than a car like most of the competition. It was one of my two favorites in a previous article, and it appears that my coworkers are reading them because they gave me one a few months ago. I’m now able to tell you exactly what you may expect from it.
|Things I was fond of||Things I didn’t care for|
|Originality in comparison to other kits||For a beginner, it’s probably too difficult.|
|There is a full step-by-step guide available.||Two motors and the camera are having mysterious problems.|
|The source code is provided in its entirety.||Calibration is necessary (regularly)|
|Fun exercises (push-ups, yoga, etc.)||Some nuts are difficult to install.|
|There are numerous sensors to experiment with.|
Freenove Robot Dog Kit Pros & Cons
The Freenove Robot Dog kit is amazing and unique, but it is unlikely to be suitable for everyone. For a first kit, I’d go with something easier to construct (assembly, calibration, and programming a 4-legged robot is not the easiest thing to do for a beginner).
Now that you have my quick response to your query, let’s have a look at how my exam went.
If you’re confused by all the new terms and acronyms, get my free Raspberry Pi glossary (PDF format)!
The overview video prepared by Freenove and available on YouTube was the first thing I saw of this robot kit:
If you’re anything like me, just watching the video may have already seduced you. If that’s the case, you can get it on Amazon without wasting any more time :).
This robot was fascinating to me in comparison to the competitors (mainly vehicles), which is why I chose it as one of my favorites in this post with 11 Raspberry Pi robot kits. On paper, it appears to contain everything we need to have a good time (many sensors, a smartphone app, and funny movements that are possible).
It’ll work with practically any Raspberry Pi (I used my Raspberry Pi 3A+), but earlier devices may require extra parts. The following are the primary characteristics:
- 12 servos are included in the movement (3 on each leg). It can be moved in any direction (it moves like a crab on the sides, as you can see in the video above).
- In the box, you’ll find a camera and an ultrasonic module. Face detection and object tracking are both possible with the camera. The ultrasonic’s purpose is to determine the distance between the robot and the nearest object.
- Sound & light: an LED module and a buzzer are also incldued in the package. It’s a nice add-on, even if I don’t know exactly how you can use them for something useful. Maybe for notifications, like if you are getting closer to a wall or to debug your scripts. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll find something to do with it, even if it’s not related to the other features.
- I haven’t done much with the gyroscope/accelerometer, but it has a good stability feature. For this, a particular sensor (MPU-6050) is included.
For an advanced robot kit, the pricing is acceptable (check the current price on Amazon). It isn’t the cheapest option, but with all of these features and the kit’s uniqueness, I believe it is well worth the money.
We’ll see how it works in the next section.
Clearly, the kit isn’t ready to use right out of the box. It’s similar to IKEA products in that you have to work up a sweat before you can enjoy your new toy. I’m sure this portion excites some of you the most, but for me, the pleasure is in the programming. Whatever the case may be, we must begin somewhere :).
I’m not sure what I was expecting before beginning the assembly, but the image above made me nervous. I’m not much of a handyman, so seeing all of these small components, screws, and cables alarmed me. I couldn’t fail because it was a gift, and I had to show them the results.
Anyway, the good news is that Freenove includes a step-by-step guide for putting it together (you can take a look at it here). They’re also available to us if we have any queries or concerns (as we’ll see later). You’ll begin with the legs, then go on to the body, and finally, everything will be fitted together.
In total, it took me 5 or 6 hours to put it together. Keep in mind that this is my first robot, so I’m a complete novice and not the most handyman. If you’ve done something similar before, you might be able to assemble it considerably faster; I’m simply providing the information.
I imagine that putting together this robot takes a little longer and is more difficult than putting together a car kit (like this one from Sunfounder). Each leg of the robot dog has three motors (servos) and two acrylic components that must be assembled. The majority of automotive robots only have two wheels.
To give you a better idea of what to expect, here are a few images of my progress:
I finally finished it, so I’m betting it shouldn’t be too difficult for most of you. On top of that, I placed my Raspberry Pi and installed Raspberry Pi OS with Desktop. I was pleased with my accomplishment and eager to move on to the next stage.
Tests & calibration
After the robot has been constructed, a test method must be followed to ensure that each component functions properly (motors, camera, sensors, etc.). To make sure everything is working, grab the code from the GitHub project and run a few scripts.
The tutorial will walk you through each step and show you how to run each command line. The LED test, for example, will switch on the LED and experiment with a few colors, the Ultrasonic test will display the distance to the next obstacle, the servo test will do a few movements to ensure all legs are properly plugged, and so on.
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If your testing are going well, you can go on to the calibration phase. It’s a difficult portion. In three dimensions, you must calibrate four legs. The dog will not be stable enough to perform anything unless the feet are aligned with the same angle on each joint.
To finish, you’ll need to add two calibration supports to keep the robot stable. Then, to align everything, a piece of paper is provided. After you’ve placed the two supports on the marks, you may adjust each of the four legs in three directions using the app (more on that later) (X, Y, and Z).
Freenove has done its best to make this phase as plain as possible, but it irritates me greatly (again, this is my first robot; perhaps it’s the same with every kit; I can’t compare at this point). You essentially have a piece of paper that looks like this:
You’ll need to mount the robot on it, and then use the app’s calibration tool to set up each leg. The goal is to place each foot on the square that corresponds to it.
You can now remove the calibration supports and begin using the robot. It should be able to move at any speed and in any direction for an extended period of time. However, I had some complications at this point that I don’t fully comprehend. After a few days, one of the legs began to slide backwards all the time:
Freenove delivered me two replacement Servos and a camera module after I explained my situation to them and emailed them this video (that was also not working anymore). I think it’s a power issue; maybe I plugged in the wrong power source or they didn’t like something else.
In any case, it was a terrific occasion to put their excellent support personnel to the test. I couldn’t have asked for a better resolution than a speedy response and new components. You may buy their products with confidence, knowing that if you have any problems, you will be assisted.
Just a quick word on the cabling, which you won’t notice in the presentation video. The camera module, as well as other sensors, are among the 13 motors (3 on each leg + one for the head). In short, once you’ve connected everything in, it’s a disaster.
A short cable tidy is included, but I’m not sure how to properly hide everything, and it’s not covered in the literature. So I contacted Freenove, who were once again excellent, providing me a video to demonstrate how to use it. I’ll share it with you here in case it’s useful:
I didn’t find the ideal way to connect everything, but at least the dog isn’t tripping over the cables.
You can begin playing with it once the assembling, testing, and calibration stages have been finished. Although programming is a possibility, you’ll most likely begin with the application. It’s accessible for cellphones (search for Freenove in your app store; Apple and Android are both supported), and it works with any Freenove robot kit.
You can alternatively use the client that is available on Github:
That would be the most convenient approach to test all of the features without typing a single line of code. There’s not much else to say here; you can change the robot’s speed; I recommend starting with a modest amount, just in case the calibration wasn’t done correctly (my first try resulted in an epic forward roll).
The dog will return to its rest position if you press the “Relax” button. Keep in mind that the motors can’t run indefinitely; there are precautions in place to prevent overheating (I believe the time limit is 3 minutes).
Freenove’s Robot Dog kit includes industry-standard components, making programming a breeze (or at least not more complicated than using the sensors directly). The tutorial is quite well-done, and it thoroughly teaches how to utilize each component in both C++ and Python.
Working with this robot should not be difficult if you have some basic programming knowledge. Freenove also offers a few classes to help you with your tasks. You are not need to code everything. Here’s an example of how to use it to accomplish push-ups:
sys.path.insert(1, ‘/home/pi/Freenove Robot Dog Kit for Raspberry Pi/Code/Server’) import sys, time
import * action=Action() time.sleep(2) action.push ups from Action ()
All of the basic movements will be assisted by the Action class:
- Good day (with the head or one hand)
I also put the Ultrasonic and LED classes to the test, as they both work in the same way. I won’t go into all the intricacies here; if you’re interested, a separate article may be required, but you should be able to figure it out by reading their lesson. Because I didn’t want to keep all of my files in their folder, I simply added the sys.path.insert line to their examples.
By the way, if you get overwhelmed whenever Python is needed for a project, I recommend reading my e-book “Master Python on Raspberry Pi.” It will take you step by step through learning the most important concepts (and just those concepts) in order to complete any project in the future. Without Python, the Raspberry Pi is like a car without an engine; you miss out on all of the fun. Get a 10% discount by downloading it right now!
Batteries & charging
Just a brief note on the power supply before we end up our assessment. The robot dog kit requires two batteries, which are sadly not included. To use it, you’ll need 2x 3.7V 18650 rechargeable batteries. I acquired mine (and this set) on Amazon, but they’re available everywhere.
You can charge the batteries by plugging them into your robot and using a USB-C cable, but I didn’t have much luck with it. When I plug it in, the green light illuminates, but the device does not appear to charge.
I like to take them out and use a charger instead. I think buying four and a charger was an excellent decision, and I urge you do the same, especially if you plan to use it for a long time.
I don’t have enough experience to say how long the batteries last or how often they should be changed, but that isn’t the most crucial factor here.
Is it really worth it?
If you’re confused by all the new terms and acronyms, get my free Raspberry Pi glossary (PDF format)!
This Robot Dog kit from Freenove is well worth buying if you’re looking for a new robot kit that isn’t as boring as some of the others. It has all of the sensors and components you could want, and the comprehensive instruction makes it simple to use.
My biggest caution is that it may be a little too difficult for a beginner. You may buy robots that are already assembled (like this one) or that are simpler to construct (like this other one from Freenove). However, even if you have no prior expertise with robots, you can accomplish it (proof: I did), especially if you are familiar with DIY, models, or similar projects.
Anyway, that was a really cool gift, and I’ll probably add it to my list of Raspberry Pi gift ideas.
If you have any troubles, you can always contact the Freenove team, which is reassuring when you first start.
Still undecided? Check out my other recommendations in this article, where I introduce 11 of the greatest Raspberry Pi robot kits.
Resources for the Raspberry Pi
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In just 30 days, you’ll have mastered the Raspberry Pi. Don’t want to stick to the basics? This book is for you if you want to learn the best ways to become a Raspberry Pi expert. With step-by-step instructions, you may learn important Linux skills and perform a variety of projects. Get the e-book here.
VIP Members’ Club You can also join the Patreon community if you just want to hang out with me and show your support. I provide you early access to my content and share behind-the-scenes content there. When you join, you’ll also get a shoutout. More information can be found here. Do you need assistance building something with Python? Any Python script for your Raspberry Pi can be created, understood, and improved. Learn the essentials in a step-by-step manner, rather than wasting time on irrelevant concepts. Now is the time to get the e-book.
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