The SLAMTEC Mapper Pro Kit is a new type of laser sensor introduced by (you guessed it) SLAMTEC, which is different from the traditional LIDAR. It has built-in functions of simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), and is suitable for many applications such as robot navigation and positioning, environmental mapping and hand-held measurement.
The Developer Kit uses SLAMTEC's unique SLAM optimization algorithm and high-performance LIDAR to fuse map data more than 10 times per second and construct up to 100,000 square meters of mapping area. The LIDAR carries out 9200 measurements per second, and the longest ranging distance can reach 40 meters. The built-in processing system can process data in real time and output high-precision map and pose.
The SLAMTEC Mapper uses SharpEdge™ fine mapping technology, which can actively detect and correct closed-loop, and achieve 100,000 square meters high-precision map and pose. The Mapper can work without additional sensors or data input. Because of the built-in 9-DOF inertial navigation system, the SLAMTEC Mapper in the hand-held mapping mode can work normally in fluctuating environment with inclination, to ensure the best map data quality.
Also provided is a complete SDK development kit that prodives mobile phone and PC-side evaluation tools to facilitate users to expand development and data acquisition. At the same time, combined with the supporting ROS driver, the generated map and pose data can be directly used in the ROS environment, which is fully compatible.
The SLAMTEC Mapper can be directly used as a LIDAR sensor in addition to its own mapping and positioning functions. Through SDK or ROS node, the LIDAR data can be quickly accessed to users'existing systems.
If a board needs code or communicates somehow, you're going to need to know how to program or interface with it. The programming skill is all about communication and code.
Skill Level: Competent - The toolchain for programming is a bit more complex and will examples may not be explicitly provided for you. You will be required to have a fundamental knowledge of programming and be required to provide your own code. You may need to modify existing libraries or code to work with your specific hardware. Sensor and hardware interfaces will be SPI or I2C.
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If it requires power, you need to know how much, what all the pins do, and how to hook it up. You may need to reference datasheets, schematics, and know the ins and outs of electronics.
Skill Level: Rookie - You may be required to know a bit more about the component, such as orientation, or how to hook it up, in addition to power requirements. You will need to understand polarized components.
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Assumptions: 1. I am a software engineer 2. I know a lot about electronics, ROS, LIDAR, robotics, mechatronics and mechanical engineering. 3. I've been building, experimenting and tinkering with robots and electronics for >20 years
So this is my 4th purchase of a commercially available LIDAR product. I started with an ebay Neato LIDAR, then another one, then I bought the Hokuyo URG, integrated it with my ROS SLAM bot, and have been watching SLAMTEC products for some time. When this little gadget popped up, I was ready to give it a go. The primary reasons for this include: 1. I don't need or want to run ROS as I need this to run with my phone app 2. I want a small hand-held 2D laser mapper that is low-power and robust 3. I'd rather pay someone else who knows Hector or Bayesian algorithms to implement such things 4. I want all the hardware (processor) and LIDAR wizardry in one device 5. I like the 40m range as I'll be mapping large industrial environments
So, the SLAMTEC Mapper Pro Kit seemed like the right fit. When I saw that it was on sale until the end of March at Sparkfun, that made the decision easier, so I blew my tax return. Once ordered, I spent some time on the SLAMTEC website reading what I could on the API documentation, some of which was in Chinese. The website is pretty minimal and definitely needs some help, but it's a new product, so I hope to see improvement in this soon. But I looked things over and tried to familiarize myself with how the hardware worked and I was ready to go on that front. I also reached out to SLAMTEC tech support with a few questions and they were pretty helpful, pointing me to several documents on the APK API that weren't on the site.
When the box arrived, I couldn't wait to fire up the Mapper Pro. Setup was straightforward. Plug in the power cable to the device and plug into a USB port on the PC. I had already downloaded Robostudio from the SLAMTEC site, so hooking up an ethernet cable and getting Robotstudio running was easy. Within a few minutes, I had figured out the default IP address and I was mapping my room. That was cool, but what kind of work would it take to get this thing working on my phone. Turns out, it's do-able. It turns out that SLAMTEC has Robostudio ported to and APK, but it's all in Chinese. I gave that a shot, but as I can't read Chinese, I didn't get far other than to connect to the device and see the map. SLAMTEC informed me that they are working to port the Android Robostudio version over to English, but no date was given as to when that would be available.
SLAMTEC tech support also pointed me to a github with a minimal app that I could use to get started with on my own application. Goldmine! This is exactly what I needed and although this was also in Chinese, I was able to get things ported over to English fairly quickly with the help of Google translate. The github is here: https://github.com/SlamtecSupport/UICommander.Android. Within a couple of days, I had my app up and running, mapping and saving maps to my phone. Pretty cool.
Next steps for me will be to decode the .stcm file format that the maps are saved in and see if I can make a utility that will convert that to something I can load into my CAD software. Overall, I'm giving the Mapper Pro kit 3 stars for the following reasons: 1. Lack of English support and documentation. 2. Web browser interface via default IP address is minimal and it's not recommended to change default IP 3. Motor is definitely louder than my Hokuyo URG005 4. Robostudio Android version is in Chinese 5. Price is a bit steep for the average spark-hacker, but I like that there is a non-pro version that is quite a bit cheaper.
Wish list for this product: 1. English version of RoboStudio or enhanced open source examples on the github site so all of the features of the mapper can be exercised. 2. Ability to convert .stcm files to a dxf or something that can be loaded into CAD software 3. Better documentation on using this device with an actual robot (which I'm not doing, but may at some point)
Have fun and happy mapping! Dave