The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) means different things to different people. For Ron Evans, the presenter at New Relic’s latest FutureTalk event, it signifies the exciting arrival of a new “Age of Robots.” Advances in connectivity and embedded software mean that robotic technologies that once seemed the stuff of science fiction are now becoming increasingly accessible. In front of a packed house in New Relic’s Portland, Oregon, engineering headquarters, Ron shared examples of those technologies, along with live demonstrations of some of the coding techniques he uses to bring them to life.
Ron, a software developer active in the free and open source community for more than 20 years, is currently “Ringleader” of The Hybrid Group as well as creator of KidsRuby.com, a free, award-winning software package designed to teach Ruby programming to children.
Building the stack
Full Stack Robotics, as Ron explained, consists of “the patterns, practices, tools, and frameworks necessary to design physical systems now trendily known as the Internet of Things.” The stack can be divided into four key elements: The first is frontends and interfaces, representing the means by which humans interact with their robotic devices. The second is frameworks and tools—how app developers go about creating solutions. Integrations, including libraries and APIs, are the ways in which developers communicate with devices. Finally there are the Things themselves, which can take the form of hardware (like robots or drones), software, or cloud-based materials. Bringing all four elements together is a complex process with potentially thrilling implications, Evans said.
Putting Gobot to work
Central to Ron’s work with robotics is his use of Gobot, a Go language developed specifically for use with robots and IoT. Capable of supporting multiple different hardware devices at the same time, Gobot proposes an approach for the construction of system software in multicore machines. One of its main strengths is its transferability.
“With Go you have an amazing cross-compilation tool chain—the program you create is compiled, which is to say statically linked, and everything you need is present in a single executable file,” Ron said. “So once you build it for the architecture that you’re targeting, you just need to get it to the embedded system.”
Taking flight—and landing safely
Ron demonstrated the power of Gobot by using the framework to accomplish increasingly impressive and entertaining robotic feats. Beginning by illuminating an LED bulb on an Arduino microcontroller, he went on to move a Sphero robot using an app on his smartphone.
Ron’s first question with any robotic device is: “Can I make it fly?” The answer came in the grand finale of his presentation, when he attempted to fly a Parrott Bebop drone through what he called “the Square of Fire,” fashioned from plumber’s piping and lit up by way of an Intel Edison module. Though Ron’s pilot skills initially had audience members ducking for cover, a safe landing after a successful mission was met with thunderous applause.
To join Ron’s robot evolution (less scary, he said, than a revolution), see all of his demonstrations, and get an in-depth look at the Gobot programming framework that made them all possible, watch the full FutureTalk below:
For a closer look Ron’s drone piloting skills, watch this video:
What’s next for FutureTalks?
Mark your calendars for November 9 when New Relic’s very own Isaac Wyatt will share how Marketing Ops is like DevOps! Then in December Josh Marinacci from PubNub will be in town to discuss Data Stream Networks.
For more information about our FutureTalks series, make sure to join our Meetup group, New Relic FutureTalks PDX, and follow us on Twitter @newrelic for the latest developments and updates on upcoming events.