Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My first working robot, It’s Alive – Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series I showed how to connect the BeagleBone Black to the Rover 5 Tracked Chassis, using the Rover 5 motor controller and also wrote a Python module to help control the robot.  In this third and final post I will show how I connected the Rocketfish MicroBluetooth Adapter to the BeagleBone Black.  I will then show my Bluetooth client and server scripts, written in Python, that lets me control my robot remotely to make it truly mobile.  Also added one more video of my robot in action.

Adding the Rocketfish Bluetooth adapter
Remember to always turn the power off on the BeagleBone prior to plugging (or unplugging) anything into it.  The Rocketfish Bluetooth adapter simply plugs into a USB port.  If you are using a USB hub you can plug it into the hub or directly into the BeagleBone if you do not have a hub.  Once the Bluetooth adapter is plugged in, power on the BeagleBone.

When the BeagleBone comes up, log into the BeagleBone and run the following command:


You should see a line similar to this if the BeagleBone recognizes the RocketFish Bluetooth adapter:

Bus 001 Device 009: ID 0461:4d75 Primax Electronics, Ltd Rocketfish RF-FLBTAD Bluetooth Adapter

When I saw this line, my first thought was that Angstrom Linux recognized my adapter and I was good to go, but that is not the case.  By default, Bluetooth is not enabled with the default BeagleBone Black Angstrom Linux distribution.

Enable Bluetooth support in Angstrom Linux
To enable Bluetooth support we will need to edit a configuration files, enable the Bluetooth service and then start the Bluetooth service.  In your favorite editor (I prefer vi) open the /var/lib/connman/settings file.  You should see something similar to this:





Notice that Bluetooth is disabled.  To enable Bluetooth, change the Enable=false line to Enabled=true under the [Bluetooth] heading and then save the file.  Now we will want to enable and start the Bluetooth service.  To do this, run the following commands:

systemctl enable bluetooth.service
systemctl start bluetooth.service

Next restart the BeagleBone Black and the Bluetooth service should be running.  We now need to pair our BeagleBone with the device that we will use to control it.

I have the ability to connect my BeagleBone Black to a USB keyboard/touchpad and monitor so I paired my BeagleBone Black to my laptop from the GUI interface.  How you pair your devices will vary depending on what device you pair your BeagleBone with.  You can initiate the pairing from either the BeagleBone or the other device. 

If you do not have your BeagleBone black connected to a Monitor, there are command line options but I was unable to get any of them to pair properly.  This post (http://pfalcon-oe.blogspot.com/2011/12/pairing-bluetooth-devices-from-command.html) seems to be the closes one but it still requires a GUI to set the PIN.  If anyone is able to get the BeagleBone to pair purely from command line, please post the code (or a link) in the comment section below for others.  Another option would be to install and configure VNC on the BeagleBone Black so you can access the Desktop remotely. 

Using Python to connect over Bluetooth
To begin, we need to install a couple of packages, so connect your BeagleBone to the Internet and run the following commands:

opkg install bluez4 bluez4-dev
pip install pybluez

This will install bluez and the bluez development libraries.  We then installed the pybluez python module.  The pybluez module is a python wrapper around the system Bluetooth resources that allows us to easy creates python scripts that communicate over Bluetooth.  

I used the rfcomm-server.py and rfcomm-client.py examples from the pybluez documentation as the base for my rover 5 client/server scripts.  You can take a look at the examples and the documentation on how the Bluetooth communication works. 

Rover 5 rfcomm server
Lets begin by writing the server script that will run on the BeagleBone Black and listen for incoming Bluetooth connections.  This script must be located in a directory that also contains the rover_beaglebone.py module that we wrote in part 2 of this series. Here is the code for the rover5-rfcomm-server.py script:

from bluetooth import *
import rover_beaglebone as rover
import time

#open Bluetooth socket and listen for connections
server_sock=BluetoothSocket( RFCOMM )

port = server_sock.getsockname()[1]

uuid = "34B1CF4D-1069-4AD6-89B6-E161D79BE4D8"

#advertise our Bluetooth service so other devices can find it
advertise_service( server_sock, "BeagleBoneService",
                   service_id = uuid,
                   service_classes = [ uuid, SERIAL_PORT_CLASS ],
                   profiles = [ SERIAL_PORT_PROFILE ]
print("Waiting for connection on RFCOMM channel %d" % port)

#wait for an incoming connection
client_sock, client_info = server_sock.accept()
print("Accepted connection from ", client_info)

#initialize rover

                 #wait for incoming commands and execute appropriate function
    while True:
        data = client_sock.recv(1024)
        if len(data) == 0: break
        print("received [%s]" % data)
        if data == 'u':
        elif data == 'j':
        elif data == 'i':
        elif data == 'k':
        elif data == 'o':
        elif data == 'l':
        elif data == 'z':
        elif data == 'x':
         elif data == 'c':
except IOError:

#disconnection socket and stop robot

print("all done")

This script begins by setting up a Bluetooth socket to listen on and also advertises the service using SDP.  Once a connection is made it then listens for incoming text and executes the appropriate functions depending on the incoming text.  If there is no function tied to the incoming text, the script disconnects the socket and stops the robot.

Now we need to configure this script to start up automatically when the BeagleBone boots up since we will not have the robot connected to anything (network or another computer) when we control it remotely.  This means we will want to configure the script to run as a service when the BeagleBone first boots up.  To do this we will create a file called rover5.service in the /lib/systemd/system directory and put the following code in it (Note:  You will need to change the path of the WorkingDirectory and ExecStart variables to match the path to your rover5-rfcomm-server.py file.

Description=Rover 5 Bluetooth Service

ExecStart=/usr/bin/python /home/root/bluetooth/rover5-rfcomm-server.py


Now run the following commands to enable and start the Rover5 service:

systemctl enable rover5.service
systemctl start rover5.service

The service is now started and will start each time the BeagleBone starts up.

Rover 5 rfcomm client
Now that we have our Rover 5 Bluetooth server created and started, let write our client application that will run on the device that we will use to control the robot.  Create a file called rover5-rfcomm-client.py and add the following code:

from bluetooth import *
import sys, tty, termios

if sys.version < '3':
    input = raw_input

addr = None

if len(sys.argv) < 2:
    print("no device specified.  Searching all nearby bluetooth devices for")
    print("the BeagleBoneService")
    addr = sys.argv[1]
    print("Searching for BeagleBoneServic e on %s" % addr)

# search for the Rover 5 service
uuid = "34B1CF4D-1069-4AD6-89B6-E161D79BE4D8"
service_matches = find_service( uuid = uuid, address = addr )

if len(service_matches) == 0:
    print("couldn't find the Rover 5 service =(")

#If we found a match
first_match = service_matches[0]
port = first_match["port"]
name = first_match["name"]
host = first_match["host"]

print("connecting to \"%s\" on %s" % (name, host))

# Create the client socket
sock=BluetoothSocket( RFCOMM )
sock.connect((host, port))
fd = sys.stdin.fileno()
old_settings = termios.tcgetattr(fd)

#we are connected, now we can type commands
print("connected.  type stuff")
while r:
    data = sys.stdin.read(1)
    if len(data) == 0: break
    if data == 'x':


If your run this scripts, it will search for the Rover 5 service using the UUID as the key.  If the service is found it will attempt to connect.  If the connection is successful it will display the message “connected.  type stuff”.  At this point we can begin typing commands to control the robot.  Before we do too much with this, we will want to disconnect the rover from external power supplies, monitors, USB hubs…. and make it truly mobile.

Making the robot mobile
The final piece of the puzzle is to free our robot of external dependencies like USB hubs, power source, network cables… that limit the range that we can go.  For this we will need to get an external power source.  I am using the portable external cell phone charger from EasyAcc.

To make the robot mobile, begin by powering off the BeagleBone and unplug all cables that connect the BeagleBone to a resource external to the robot like power, network, USB hub… (Note:  leave the BeagleBone connected to the motor controller).  The Beaglebone black’s connections will look like this:

Now plug the Rocketfish Bluetooth adapter into the USB port on your BeagleBone Black and run the USB power connector on the BeagleBone Black to the external cell phone charger as pictured below:

If everything is connected correctly the robot should power up.  Once the robot is powered up; run the client script by running this command “python rover5-rfcomm-client.py”.  I normally give the BeagleBone about 30 seconds to power up before I run the client script.

If all is well, you should see the prompt “connected.  type stuff”.  At this point you can enter the any of the one character commands defined in the rover5-rfcomm-server.py script to make your robot go.

This ends the three part series on my first working robot.  Now it is time to expand the robot and/or experiment some more with the BeagleBone Black.  Either way I will document what I am learning here.  I hope this series of posts helped/inspired others.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Hi Jon,

    First, thanks very much for your tutorial. It's awesome!!

    I'm building a rover with the same characteristics as your. BB Black with the motor board for motion and same rover 5. The difference is that I have 4 motors on the rover. I connected the 4 encoders to the BB.

    I have a problem. Basically I am using your code for motion (adapted for 4 motors) and the robot runs forward, back (with different speeds) and spins correctly. However I can't make the right and left wheels to turn at different speed so that the robot turns withous the need for spinning. Is this normal? Do you have an idea of why this is happening?

    Regards and Thanks,