Use Leo Rover for events

Bring your products on top of the Rover and build scenarios to make it even better suited for your needs.

April 20, 2020


Szymon Dzwończyk

When we started the project in 2017 we didn’t even expect the Rover would run so many different use cases as we can see now. We thought about building something for people like us - developers and makers, and didn’t like to restrict the audience to only a single use.

Imagine how surprised we were when different museums approached to implement Leo Rover in their exhibitions. It became a way to let the museums visitors drive their own little ‘Mars Rover’ on a mockup terrain. Then there were different trade shows and shopping mall events to gain attention of the people attending. With Leo Rover you don’t need to be a superhero to run robotics experience in trade shows, museums or any other public events. It’s an ideal event robot to put in hands of the public. The thing you need to do before is several steps to make it safer and easier to maintain and you’re good to go.

First step: Switch to 5.8 GHz WiFi

By default Leo Rover uses standard 2.4 GHz Wifi connection to operate. It opens an access point to which you connect with your own device and drive the Rover with onboard user interface. There’s no need to install an app, so you can easily switch between devices on the go. Although it may seem reasonable when it comes to ease-of-use, it may be problematic in crowded trade shows and exhibitions. As it uses standard frequency Wifi, imagine how many other hotspots are there to interfere. Every single network streams data back and forth and reserves a piece of bandwidth for itself. Networking nightmare.

To address this issue, Leo Rovers come with two separate WiFi modems installed. There is an internal dual-band modem in Raspberry Pi (main computer) - 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz, and an independent USB modem that runs as 2.4 GHz Wifi access point (LeoRover-XXYYY network). The first modem can be used to connect to your local Wifi network, and the internal is typically reserved to connect between the Rover and steering device.

When you plan to use Leo Rover as a robot for exhibitions, we always suggest to move to a setup based on Leo Rover connected to your own local network that runs on 5.8 GHz. The Rover and your steering device connect both to your local network providing router. This way you’ll make sure the stability of the connection is driven not by the moving Rover, but by a fixed-in-place router and you use less-crowded higher-bandwidth 5.8 Wifi that allows for smoother ride.

Tutorial ‘Connect to the Internet’ is the thing to do:

Then you need to check IP address of the Rover in your local network and use it to connect to the Rover (you won’t use default ‘’ anymore).

Second: Change password

Imagine there are hundreds of people visiting the place where you use your robot for exhibitions. The last thing you want is somebody connecting to the Rover and hacking it with no control. As we openly show the Rovers default login and password in Leo Rover Docs it may be really easy for the bad guys to connect and do bad things.

We strongly recommend, as soon as you’re out there with people, please change the password (and Wifi name if you want). 

Tutorial ‘Change Wifi name & password’ is the thing to do:

Third: Change the Wifi settings to the least used channel

The way Wifi standard works it divides the whole network to several channels to make sure there’s the least interference between devices connected to the same network. In case of 2.4 GHz Wifi there are 11 channels to be used, in 5.8 GHz you have 45 channels to choose from. Different devices adapt to the current network situation by changing the channels to stay out of each other’s way. Knowing that there will be different devices trying to force Leo Rover to different channel (sometimes even more crowded), the Rover by default uses fixed channel number 2 to communicate. This way every other device needs to adapt, and not the Rover.

This approach has its advantages as well as disadvantages. It may happen that the default channel 2 will be the most crowded one and the more devices are working in single channel the more laggy it becomes. You can check the network by using any network scanning app and then change the channel the same way as you changed the Wifi name and password.

The same can happen if you want to run multiple Leo Rovers at once. Just make sure you have different channels set in different robot and you shouldn’t have issues with laggy video streaming.

Setting ‘hostapd.conf’ file ‘channel=2’ setting in ‘Change Wifi name & password’ is the thing to do:

Fourth: Limit the torque and speed of the Rover

If you give the Rover to rookie operators, you want to make sure they don’t break it by flipping or running into obstacles. Although the Rover should withstand some harsh use, it will always be like playing a Russian roulette when you let the people do what they like with the Rover.

One way to limit the Rover issues is by limiting its power. This way you’ll make sure the Rover is slow enough for the people to respond to any dangerous situation (we know that even stock 0.4 km/h is too much) and you’ll limit the Rover climbing force to let it operate where you like, not where the people would like (ex. driving into walls). By default the Rover is strong enough to drive in a wall, climb on it and flip, which can cause damage to the internals. Most of the time it’s still repairable, but needs some work to be done. And why work when you can avoid it in the first place?

The most stable way to limit the power is to edit the Rover controller firmware where you can hard-code maximum torque and speed of the motors. For the newest firmware we provided a simple text configuration file setting the parameters straight after editing. Still seems complicated? Maybe. But after you do it, you’ll feel like a programming master - even though you just edited one line of a code.

And this is the exact feeling that we want you to feel. Leo Rover is built especially to make programming rookies feel like programmers who know stuff.

Tutorial ‘Modify motor torque and speed settings’ is the thing to do:

Fifth: Copy the stream to a bigger screen

It’s a lot of fun driving the Rover in a simulated mission, but the fun needs to be shared to the other spectators as well. As the Rover is a fully capable network device with Ubuntu Linux onboard, you can freely access any of the features to use for your own purposes.

One of the biggest feature is to access the Rover video stream and show it to the audience on a separate screen. To do that you’d need to connect your controlling device (or smart TV screen) to the streaming server of the Rover.

Tutorial ‘Access video stream’ is the thing to do:

Make sure you don’t connect multiple devices to the UI as it will act strange with several agents connected. The Rover doesn’t know which device to listen to and it will combine different commands randomly, performing a strange dance. Front, front, back, back, turn left and clap, clap.

Event robots get all the attention

With the steps done you’ll be able to give the people a way to interact with your trade show stand or museum showcase. The Rover will act as a great event robot gathering people in one place. And you can trust us - the Rovers get all the attention. With such setup done you can bring your products on top of the Rover or build scenarios to make it even better suited for your needs. Now it’s up to you how it’s implemented, with the steps done - all the technical struggle is already checked. Wish you great business then!

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