The BeagleBone Blue is a complete, Linux-enabled robotics computer based on an Octavo Systems OSD3358 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor. Its features include:-
- 512MB DDR3 RAM
- Integrated power management
- 2×32-bit 200-MHz programmable real-time units (PRUs)
- ARM Cortex-M3
- On-board 4GB 8-bit eMMC flash storage programmed with Debian Linux
It also includes a whole host of connectors which make it ideal for robotics applications. These connectors include:-
- Battery: 2-cell LiPo support with balancing, 9-18V charger input
- Wireless: 802.11bgn, Bluetooth 4.1 and BLE
- Motor control: 8 6V servo out, 4 DC motor out, 4 quadrature encoder in
- Sensors: 9 axis IMU, barometer
- Connectivity: HighSpeed USB 2.0 client and host
- User interface: 11 user programmable LEDs, 2 user programmable buttons
- Easy connect interfaces for adding additional sensors such as: GPS, DSM2 radio, UARTs, SPI, I2C, 1.8V analog, 3.3V GPIOs
Setting up the BeagleBone Blue is fairly straight forward, and basically involves connecting the board to a PC or MAC using a USB to micro USB cable (not supplied with the board). When the BeagleBone Blue has booted, it should appear as a new mass storage drive. Opening the START.HTM file in the root folder on the mass storage drive using a web browser opens a ‘Getting Started’ guide. This guide includes the option of downloading and installing the drivers required for the BeagleBone Blue board. The displayed Web page also provides instructions on how to update the software on the board.
Having installed the required drivers for the BeagleBone Blue, you can use a Web browser to browse to the board using the board’s default URL of http://192.168.7.2. You can also use an SSH client such as PuTTY to open up a terminal session with the board, again using the default IP address of 192.168.7.2. In order to login using SSH you will need to use the default username ‘debian’ and password ‘temppwd’.
We had hoped that it would be possible to set up the WiFi of the BeagleBone Blue to connect to our local wireless network by simply connecting to the WiFi hotspot of the BeagleBone Blue, and then amending the WiFi settings to connect to our network. In order to do this, it is necessary to enter a WiFi password for the BeagleBone WiFi hotspot. The default password for this WiFi hotspot is ‘BeagleBone’.
Unfortunately, we could find nothing in these Web pages to allow us to amend the WiFi settings to connect to our wireless network, so instead we connected to the board using SSH, and then used terminal commands to connect to our wireless network. Instructions for doing this can be found at this link.
Input and Output
The BeagleBone Blue input and output can be controlled using the same software libraries as used by the BeagleBone Robotics Cape. Instructions on how to install and use these libraries can be found at the Strawson Design Web site.
The Robotics Cape libraries are written for the ‘C’ programming language. There are also some Python bindings for the Robotics Cape; however, at present these Python bindings support only a small subset of the functionality available in the Robotics Cape libraries.
We tried connecting a few servo motors to the servo pins, and managed to control these using the servo functions from the Robotics Cape libraries. In order to do this it is necessary to connect a 12V power supply to the 12V supply connector on the BeagleBone Blue board.
We also wanted to have a go at connecting motors, but unfortunately didn’t have any of the required connectors (JST ZH series 2 contact) available. These are, however, fairly readily available from the likes of eBay. Note that in order to power motors from the BeagleBone Blue, it is necessary to power the board using a battery connected to the 2 cell LiPo battery connector.
3D Printable Case
We found a nice little 3D printable case for the BeagleBone Blue. The image below shows our BeagleBone Blue in the case that we printed.
BeagleBone Blue Projects
At present, there aren’t a lot of documented projects that have make use of the BeagleBone Blue. However, we see it as having a lot of potential in things such as drones and robots. The following links show a couple of projects that have used the BeagleBone Blue board:-
For further information about the BeagleBone Blue, check out the Element 14 Community pages.