Leo Rovers on display – a few words about a special custom project

Discover how Leo Rover robots turned into Martian rovers for a museum.

May 17, 2023


Aleksandra Szczepaniak

Leo Rover robots at a museum
Photo source: carnegiesciencecenter.org

In case you weren't aware, apart from providing you with the Leo Rover mobile robots, we also make custom projects tailored to your specific requirements. We can turn a Leo Rover into the very robot your project calls for. Just like we did for this one. Intrigued? Read on! :)

Cooperation with Ravenswood Studio

For one of our customers, Ravenswood Studio, we’ve created a very fascinating project, one that everybody is able to see!

Ravenswood Studio is a custom fabrication company located in Lincolnwood, Illinois, USA, that creates unique exhibits for museums and corporations, as well as scenery and sets for theater, opera, film, and television.

One of such works went to Pittsburgh, USA. That's where the Leo Rover robotic platforms have become part of the Carnegie Science Center’s exhibition themed „Mars: The Next Giant Leap” that kicked off November 19, 2022. Check out the video:

About the project

For this custom project, we’ve made what we call a boundary system for an interactive exhibit with two simultaneously driving Leo Rovers, each operated with a joystick, and controlled by a custom vision system. How does it work?

With the use of analog joysticks, the two Leo Rovers move within a trapezoid-shaped terrain, specially built by Ravenswood Studio, that reflects the surface of Mars.

Visualization of the Martian terrain
Visualization of the trapezoid Martian terrain for the museum with two Leo Rovers on it

The vision system we’ve developed prevents the rovers from driving into each other and out of the terrain. How’s this possible? Based on the defined boundaries and an ArUco marker placed on each of the rovers, the system detects the position of the robots in the designated area. In addition, we’ve divided the area into a safety zone, in which the rovers can move freely, and a danger zone, which is an offset adjacent to the area’s boundaries. Once either rover enters the danger zone, its movements start to be limited so that it won’t venture beyond the boundaries. The only movement the rover is able to make in the danger zone is one that will lead it away from it.

What’s more, there are 6 sensors embedded in the artificial Martian terrain that activate lights on the control panel with some trivia for the visitors once a rover reaches a specific position on the surface.

Testing thesystem at Ravenswood Studio workshop
Testing the system at Ravenswood Studio workshop
Photo credit: Ravenswood Studio

Additionally, each of the Leo Rovers for the boundary system project has been equipped with a bigger battery than the nominal one with the capacity of 15 Ah thanks to which the robots at the exhibit can drive for up to 8 hours straight.

Although the exhibit itself requires two Leo Rovers, we provided Ravenswood Studio with three robots in total. The third vehicle is just a backup to replace one of the other two if needed. What’s more, there’s no need to reconfigure the system to replace one of the vehicles. The system maps all three rovers and it detects which two are present in the exhibit area, and then it assigns the joysticks to them accordingly.

Diagram of the vision system hardware

The museum visitors’ experience

The museum visitors at the exhibit with Leo Rovers
The museum visitors at the exhibit with Leo Rovers
Photo by Becky Thurner via Pittsburgh City Paper

What’s a better way to educate yourself than through entertainment? That’s exactly what Carnegie Science Center visitors are going to experience at the exhibit with the Leo Rovers. This Mars themed exhibit enables visitors to search for various traces of life and water on the Red Planet by navigating the robots across the simulated terrain with analog joysticks set at the control panel. Leading either rover into a specific point triggers some trivia thanks to the aforementioned sensors installed in the terrain. So, you’re able to find out something about the Red Planet while operating a mobile robot. See? Educational and entertaining :).

Developing the project

What did developing this custom project look like for us? Long story short – first, we designed the whole system and integrated it with all the equipment such as camera, analog joysticks, and Leo Rovers. Once everything seemed to be up and running, we tested it in a trapezoid area on a scale of 1:1, which you can see in the picture below:

Testing the boundary system in a trapezoid area
Testing the boundary system in a trapezoid area on a scale of 1:1

Then, we set off to Lincolnwood, IL, USA, to integrate the system with the real Martian terrain (as real as it can be for museum purposes ;)) that was being prepared at the Ravenswood Studio workshop.

Leo Rover team at Ravenswood Studio workshop
Błażej from the Leo Rover team testing the system at Ravenswood Studio’s workshop
Photo credit: Ravenswood Studio

Remote maintenance

In case the system needs our help, we can carry out remote maintenance. With remote access to the system, we're able to help the client from our office and fix the problem provided that’s something that can be fixed remotely.

A system for various projects

What’s cool about the boundary system we’ve developed is that we can implement it in many different projects. Depending on your requirements, we can add a whole bunch of other features. For example, in this particular project, the area’s boundaries form a trapezoid, but it could be any polygon as we can define a totally new environment. Also, the number of rovers can be different than in this project and so can be the number of sensors embedded in the terrain to activate lights (if that’s something your project calls for). If needed, it’s also possible to create more danger zones, for instance, inside the terrain so that the robots avoid an obstacle within the area’s boundaries. Video streaming from Leo Rovers’ cameras is an option too. Another possibility could be a visualization of the boundaries and rovers’ locations as in the image below:

visualization of the boundaries and robots’ locations
Projection of the boundaries onto actual camera image (on the left) and visualization of the boundaries and rovers’ locations (on the right)

The list of other features can go on, just tell us about your requirements, and we’ll adjust the system to your needs ;).

Your requirements, our solutions

Working on this custom software project has been a wonderful experience for us. We’re thrilled and proud that the fruits of our efforts are put on display in the form of the Mars themed exhibit in Pittsburgh, PA, USA, about which you can read more here. And we’re peckish for more custom projects to work on! Reach out to us, tell us about your undertaking and your needs, and we’ll be more than happy to make it come true :).

Shoot us a message at contact@fictionlab.pl and let’s work on your project!

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