VxWorks in Education: University of São Paulo, Brazil – Part 2

By Bill Graham

Graham_lg In part two of my interview with Professor Glauco Caurin, we talk about some the research projects that they working on and how they are using VxWorks and other Wind River products:

Q: Tell us about the research projects you have make use of Wind River Products. Can you give us more detail on the Kanguera, the five fingers robot hand? Which of our software are you using? Where is it used and why?

We are using VxWorks now for some years with different platforms. More then 8 years ago we started the first research projects with the hardware funded by FAPESP using VxWorks donated by Wind River as the RTOS. The projects were related to the development of robot grippers and hands. At that time we were using Tornado as IDE. Today our  goals in this area  are still the same: to create technologies for remotely operated maintenance in the deep sea supporting oil exploration. Most of the Brazilian oil reserves are more than a kilometer below the sea level. The recent accidents in the Gulf of Mexico [and the need for robotic assistance] reinforce the importance of our ideas. 

At dangerous and difficult places robots are very strategic technologies. Now we are developing the fourth generation of our robot hands. The new Kanguera robot hand (image below) will have a more robust mechanical system and also a higher number of sensors, including tactile capacity. Currently we are using Wind River Workbench as the IDE and VxWorks 6.7 [as the RTOS]. 

We are trying to establish a single platform for the development of the different robotic projects we have. We are very impressed with Workbench. A single platform that can be used from on-chip debugging level, passing through the BSP development, device drivers and reaching the application software.

We are also giving priority to the CAN communication protocol that will favor our communication with other Lab partners like Maxon Motors in Switzerland with their position controllers and servomotors.


Q: This project SENA, sounds very interesting. This is in conjunction with FIAT Brazil, what else can you tell us about it? How is Wind River software being used and where?

FIAT also uses the CAN bus protocol for communication of the Stilo model that was donated to our Lab. In this sense we are trying to use our knowledge to read the existing sensors in the car by combining their data with the additional information from the laser scanners and finally generating the desired actions with the actuators. For this project the students are working on the development of device drivers for the CAN protocol.

In this project we are considering the possibility of developing home made BSP for the computers that were donated by Beckhoff (also a project sponsor). Today this hardware does not run VxWorks.

At FIAT they are also using National Instruments LabView and CompactRIO for car electronic subsystems tests together with a platform called Veristand for HIL. All these components are running on VxWorks. We are working together trying to increase test frequency limits via direct access to VWorks. That is my contribuition to the project. The SENA Project is leaded by my colleague Prof. Marcelo Becker who is our mobile robotics specialist at the Mechatronic Lab.


Q: What can you tell us about the lower limb exoskeleton project? Again, how is Wind River software being used and where?

The lower limb exoskeleton project (pictured below) aims to develop a robotic device to promote assistance and/or rehabilitation for disabled people, focusing on patients who have suffered a stroke. Actually, the apparatus consists of an orthesis for the lower limbs – an external mechanism the patient can wear – whose mechanical joints can be moved by electrical motors. The control of the robotic system can be configured in such a way the patient can be assisted (no rehabilitation is performed in this case) or he/she is asked to execute a given movement with some constrains imposed by the robot, a typical task of a rehabilitation procedure. The robot aided rehabilitation framework also includes the use of computational games to motivate the user during the rehabilitation session.

The Wind River software is being used to access all signals generated by the exoskeleton sensors (encoders, gyros, force sensors, etc.) and to control the electrical motors to the desired positions, specified by a high level command which considers the walking stability and the patient intention. The hardware platform is a GE/Fanuc CV1 PowerPC, with analog and digital I/Os and quadrature encoder modules.

It is important to mention that lower limb exoskeleton Project is lead by my colleague  Prof. Adriano Siqueira who is our control specialist at the Mechatronic Lab.


…to be continued in Part 3