Detecting Objects

These custom functions use the mechanical bumpers or ultrasonic sensor:

  • checkBumpers() — detect bumper collision with object on left or right side

  • measureDistance() — measure distance ahead to nearest object in path

  • avoidCollision() — avoid collision with nearby object in path

  • findClosestObject() — find the closest object (360° scan) and drive towards it

checkBumpers()

A custom function named checkBumpers() uses the mechanical bumpers to detect collisions with obstacles.

The left and right mechanical bumpers each have a "whisker" that extends out to one side. The "whisker" is a flexible metal wire that will bend during a collision. If the wire bends far enough, it will make electrical contact with a metal screw on the bumper board. It is similar to how a switch or button works.

In order to work, the checkBumpers() function must be continuously called by the loop() function (or continuously called by a loop within another function).

The checkBumpers() function requires these objects as part of your global variables before the setup() function:

RedBotMotors motors;
RedBotBumper leftBumper(3);
RedBotBumper rightBumper(11);

Add the checkBumpers() custom function after the loop() function:

void checkBumpers() {
if (leftBumper.read() == LOW) {
// add code for left collision: e.g., brake, back up, turn right
motors.brake();
}
else if (rightBumper.read() == LOW) {
// add code for right collision: e.g., brake, back up, turn left
motors.brake();
}
}

ADD CODE TO FUNCTION: You need to add code within the checkBumpers() function to perform actions (brake, back up, turn, etc.) for each bumper collision.

NOTE: The checkBumpers() function does not check for a simultaneous collision with both bumpers. If a simultaneous bumper collision did occur, the function will treat it as a left bumper collision (because that's the first check performed in the if statement). However, you could modify the function to check for all three possibilities: both bumpers, left bumper only, or right bumper only.

measureDistance()

A custom function named measureDistance() uses an ultrasonic sensor to measure the distance ahead to the nearest object in the robot's path.

The ultrasonic sensor has a transmitter (i.e., a speaker) that can produce high-frequency sound, which cannot be heard by the human ear. The sensor also has a receiver (i.e., a microphone) that detects the echo of the high-frequency sound when it is reflected back from a nearby object. By measuring how much time it takes for the echo to arrive, you can calculate the distance between the sensor and the object.

When the measureDistance() function is called, it will return the distance measurement as a float value (decimal number). Your app will typically store this value in a local variable, and then do something with the value.

For example, this code statement declares a local variable named sensorDist to store the float value returned by calling the measureDistance() function:

float distance = measureDistance();

The measureDistance() function requires these global variables before the setup() function:

int TRIG_PIN = A0;
int ECHO_PIN = A1;

You need to set the pin modes for the ultrasonic sensor's transmitter (Trig) and receiver (Echo). In addition, you want to be sure the transmitter is turned off (LOW) when the app first starts. Add this code within the setup() function:

pinMode(TRIG_PIN, OUTPUT);
pinMode(ECHO_PIN, INPUT);
digitalWrite(TRIG_PIN, LOW);

Add the measureDistance() custom function after the loop() function:

float measureDistance() {
// uses HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor
// variables for measuring echo time
unsigned long start_time, end_time, pulse_time;
// trigger ultrasonic signal for 10 microseconds
digitalWrite(TRIG_PIN, HIGH);
delayMicroseconds(10);
digitalWrite(TRIG_PIN, LOW);
// wait until echo received
while (digitalRead(ECHO_PIN) == 0);
// measure how long echo lasts (pulse time)
start_time = micros(); // get start time in microseconds
while (digitalRead(ECHO_PIN) == 1); // wait until echo pulse ends
end_time = micros(); // get end time
pulse_time = end_time - start_time; // subtract to get duration
// pulse time of 23200 represents maximum distance for this sensor
if (pulse_time > 23200) pulse_time = 23200;
// calculate distance to object using pulse time
float dist_cm = pulse_time / 58.0;
float dist_in = pulse_time / 148.0;
// need 60ms delay between ultrasonic sensor readings
delay(60);
// return distance value (inches or centimeters)
return dist_in; // or can return dist_cm
}

GO METRIC: The measureDistance() function returns the distance in inches, but the function can be modified to return the distance in centimeters.

avoidCollision()

A custom function named avoidCollision() uses an ultrasonic sensor to avoid collisions with a nearby object in the robot's path.

The avoidCollision() function requires the measureDistance() function, so be sure to add that function after the loop() function.

In order to work, the avoidCollision() function must be continuously called by the loop() function (or continuously called by a loop within another function).

The avoidColliion() function requires this object as part of your global variables before the setup() function:

RedBotMotors motors;

Add the avoidCollision() custom function after the loop() function:

void avoidCollision() {
// uses HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor
// requires measureDistance() function
// set minimum allowed distance between robot and obstacle
float minDist = 8.0; // change value as necessary (need decimal)
// measure distance to nearest obstacle
float distance = measureDistance();
// if obstacle is too close, avoid collision
if (distance <= minDist) {
// add code to perform (brake, change direction, etc.)
motors.brake();
}
}

ADD CODE TO FUNCTION: You need to add code within the avoidCollision() function to perform actions (brake, turn, etc.) when an obstacle is too close.

You'll need to decide what actions the robot should perform when an obstacle is too close. Depending on the purpose and context of your robot, your solution will be different:

  • Maybe the robot should turn around and drive in the opposite direction.

  • Maybe the robot should turn 90° right (or left) and then continue driving.

  • Maybe the robot should scan left and right to check for a clear path.

  • Maybe the robot should navigate around the obstacle to maintain its original direction.

  • etc.

AVOID COLLISION WHILE FOLLOWING LINE

Avoiding collisions while following a line is possible, but it presents a challenge:

  • When the robot detects that an obstacle is nearby in the path ahead, the robot has to leave the line, detour around the obstacle, and then find the line again.

This diagram shows a possible solution to detour around an obstacle while following a line.

Notice in step 5 of the diagram that the robot makes a 45° turn to approach the line at an angle (instead of making a 90° turn). The reason for this is to ensure that one IR line sensor will detect the line first, so the followLine() function can steer the robot to center itself on the line again. (Otherwise, if the robot approaches the line head-on at a 90° angle, the robot will simply drive over the line.)

The code for the loop() function could be as simple as:

void loop() {
followLine();
avoidCollision();
}

The code for detouring around an obstacle would be placed within the avoidCollision() custom function, which might look like this:

void avoidCollision() {
// uses HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor
// requires measureDistance() function
// set minimum allowed distance between robot and obstacle
float minDist = 8.0; // change value as necessary (need decimal)
// set detour distance (should be larger than width and depth of obstacle)
float detourDist = 12.0; // change value as necessary (need decimal)
// measure distance to nearest obstacle
float distance = measureDistance();
// if obstacle is too close, avoid collision
if (distance <= minDist) {
// add code to perform (brake, change direction, etc.)
// detour around obstacle
motors.brake();
pivotAngle(-90); // turn left
driveDistance(detourDist);
pivotAngle(90); // turn right
driveDistance(minDist + detourDist);
pivotAngle(45);
// drive until line detected by center IR sensor
int lineThreshold = 800; // change value if necessary
while (centerLine.read() < lineThreshold) {
motors.drive(100);
delay(25);
}
}
}

This version of the avoidCollision() function has a local variable named detourDist set to a value of 12.0 inches. This represents how far the robot will detour around an obstacle, so this value needs to be larger than the width or depth (whichever is larger) of the actual obstacle. As needed, adjust the value of detourDist based on the size of your obstacles. Just be sure to include a decimal point, since it is a float value.

The diagram and sample code shown above represent just one possible solution for avoiding obstacles while following a line. You might need to create a different solution that works better for your particular task scenarios.

findClosestObject()

A custom function named findClosestObject() uses an ultrasonic sensor and the wheel encoders to perform a 360° scan of the environment to find the closest object and then drive towards it.

To accomplish this, the robot perform two pivots:

  1. The first pivot turns the robot 360° to find the direction and distance to the closest object. The ultrasonic sensor is used to measure the distance to the object, while the wheel encoder count is used to indicate the "direction" of the object. Variables are used to compare the measurements and keep track of which object is the closest.

  2. The second pivot turns the robot to face the direction of the closest object found in the first pivot. Then the robot drives towards the object based the distance to the object.

The findClosetObject() function requires two other custom functions, in order to work. Be sure to add these two functions after the loop() function:

  • measureDistance() function — used to measure distance to nearby objects

  • driveDistance() function — used to drive towards the closest object

The findClosestObject() function requires these objects as part of your global variables before the setup() function:

RedBotMotors motors;
RedBotEncoder encoder(A2, 10);

The findClosestObject() function produces an alert sound after completing each of its two pivots. It assumes the speaker's pin number is stored in a global variable named speaker. If necessary, modify this variable name (or remove the sounds).

Add the findClosetObject() custom function after the loop() function:

void findClosestObject() {
/* CONDUCT 360 SCAN TO FIND CLOSEST OBJECT
Uses HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor
Requires measureDistance() and driveDistance() functions
Measures distance (every 60 ms) while pivoting for 360 degrees
Keeps track of "direction" (encoder count) and distance to closest object
After scan, pivots to direction of closest object and drives towards it
NOTE: Robot might not align perfectly with direction of object
*/
// variables for pivot power and tracking wheel encoder count
int power = 75; // slightly slower than normal pivot
long rightCount = 0; // track current wheel encoder count
// variables for 360 degree scan
float scanAngle = 360.0;
float scanCorrection = -2.5; // change value based on test results
scanAngle += scanCorrection; // add correction to scan angle
// variables to track distance and encoder count for closest object
float minDist = 157.0; // set to max range of sensor (157 in, 400 cm)
long minCount = 0;
// values based on RedBot's encoders, motors & wheels
float countsPerRev = 192.0; // 192 encoder ticks per wheel revolution
float wheelDiam = 2.56; // wheel diameter = 65 mm = 2.56 in
float wheelCirc = PI * wheelDiam; // wheel circumference = 3.14 x 2.56 in = 8.04 in
float pivotDiam = 6.125; // pivot diameter = distance between centers of wheel treads = 6.125 in
float pivotCirc = PI * pivotDiam; // pivot circumference = 3.14 x 6.125 in = 19.23 in
// based on angle, calculate distance (arc length) for pivot
float distance = abs(scanAngle) / 360.0 * pivotCirc;
// based on distance, calculate number of wheel revolutions
float numRev = distance / wheelCirc;
// calculate target encoder count
float targetCount = numRev * countsPerRev;
// 1st PIVOT - 360 degree scan of environment
// reset encoder counters and start pivoting
encoder.clearEnc(BOTH);
delay(100);
motors.pivot(power);
// keeps looping while right encoder count less than target count
while (abs(rightCount) < abs(targetCount)) {
// get ultrasonic sensor measurement
float sensorDist = measureDistance();
// see if measurement is new minimum distance
if (sensorDist < minDist) {
minDist = sensorDist;
minCount = rightCount;
}
// get current wheel encoder count
rightCount = encoder.getTicks(RIGHT);
}
// 360 SCAN COMPLETE - stop motors
motors.brake();
delay(500);
// OPTIONAL: play sound to indicate scan complete
tone(speaker, 3000, 500);
// 2nd PIVOT - turn to face direction of closest object
rightCount = 0;
targetCount = minCount;
// reset encoder counters and start pivoting
encoder.clearEnc(BOTH);
delay(100);
motors.pivot(power);
// keeps looping while right encoder count less than target count
while (abs(rightCount) < abs(targetCount)) {
delay(10); // very brief delay to continue pivoting
rightCount = encoder.getTicks(RIGHT); // check count again
}
// 2nd PIVOT COMPLETE - stop motors
motors.brake();
delay(500);
// DRIVE TOWARDS OBJECT - adjusts distance to avoid collision
float buffer = 6.0; // buffer distance between robot and object
if (minDist > buffer) driveDistance(minDist - buffer);
// OPTIONAL: play sound to indicate arrival at object
tone(speaker, 3000, 500);
}