BeagleBone Black EV3 Cape

There’s a new and exciting project over at Kickstarter that combines the BeagleBone Black with LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 motors and sensors. I’ve previously used the BeagleBone in our Zebro Light robot, so I was quite excited about the idea of combining the BeagleBone with MINDSTORMS.

evb_on2

The EVB is a cape (a shield) that turns your BeagleBone Black into a completely functional EV3 brick. You can attach all EV3 motors and sensors, and the FatCatLab is also working on their own sensors. (Even if you’re not into BeagleBone or Linux, you can still use their new sensors with your regular EV3 brick.) The EVB is currently under development, but I’ve received a prototype for testing last week and I’m pretty impressed by what I’ve seen so far.

The shield attaches directly to the P8 and P9 headers of the Beaglebone. It comes with two transparent plates that make a nice case, giving it a sturdy look and feel. Andy from FatCatLab sent me a copy of the firmware for the BeagleBone, which is a 260 MB image file that can be flashed to a micro SD card as usual. I haven’t studied it in detail yet, but it seems to be a rather stripped down distribution compared to the regular Debian Linux distribution for Beaglebone Black. When you turn it on, it directly boots into the EV3 menu.

Actually, it works exactly like a regular EV3, but you can still do all the things you can do with the BeagleBone Black! (Oh, and did I mention the larger, 4-color, backlit display?) At the moment, the documentation and hardware schematics are still under development, but I look forward to creating my own code to access the hardware without using the EV3-like firmware. (The EV3 firmware is very nice, but if I wanted to use it, I could just use the regular EV3 brick).

To test it, I modified the BRICK SORT3R from The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book and replaced the EV3 brick by the Beaglebone Black and the EVB cape. Everything worked right out of the box, and it can simply be programmed from the standard LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 software. Check out the video of the robot in action below!

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