Palm PDAs are superbly evolved for running robots. They're cheap, rugged, mobile, and plenty powerful enough for today’s hobbyist devices. Using a Palm as your robot's brain, umm, short-circuits much of the hassle normally associated with robotics. It’s a great way to get started. The Ultimate Palm Robot covers every detail and comes with all the software you need.
The authors start with parts, discussing kits from Acroname, as well as individual components: infrared rangers, servos, special 4mm omnidirectional roller wheels. (Even if you’re buying the kit, the explanations will get you comfortable with this stuff.)
Then, it’s on to assembly. The authors assume you’re assembling from scratch, but folks who’ve purchased the “easy,” partly assembled kit can hop aboard partway through. Relax: there are lots of pictures. Most Palm robots are built atop the Palm III or V, but there’s a full chapter on interfacing to the Palm VII and even the Handspring Visor, which you can get dirt-cheap nowadays.
Software’s covered in detail (and you’ll find loads of it on CD-ROM). The authors also introduce their own Palm Robot Programmer, a point-and-click tool that writes your code for you: great for beginners. Prefer to write your own? There’s coverage of programming Palm robots with Basic, C, Java -- even TEA, the language of Acroname’s Brainstem controller.
The authors show how to extend your robot with additional sensors and output devices. Finally -- since you’ve still got a working Palm -- they look at some cool robot-themed software to run on it.
The Ultimate Palm Robot: eminently doable, highly enjoyable. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.