People are starting to look seriously at the iPhone 4 as a robotics controller. It's got a full IMU and otherwise looks appealing. You can get all the hardware chip and sensor specs from this excellent iFixIt teardown, but here's just one example: the GPS chip.


It's a Broadcom chip and the refresh rate is "up to 2Hz". The user-accessible data is provided by the OS so the refresh rate in practice may vary, but the hardware looks pretty promising.



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Comment by Overwatch on November 22, 2010 at 12:22pm
I somehow doubt that people are starting to look seriously at the iPhone 4 as a robotics controller.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on November 22, 2010 at 12:27pm
Martin: why do say that? It's already used to control the Parrot AR.Drone, and Android phones as robotics controllers are now ubiquitous.
Comment by T.D. Gonzales on November 22, 2010 at 12:35pm
It seems like you would have to hack it to make sure you can really get access to low level hardware stuff.
Comment by Martin Peres on November 22, 2010 at 1:21pm
Well, using smartphones as GUI interfaces, data storage, long-range communication (3G, texts) and computation power (image recognition) for robots is cool. But I doubt the built-in IMU and the accelerometers are accurate-enough for robot positionning.

I believe in the use of an arduino as an interface between the real world (sensors) and the big brain (that may be a smartphone).

As for what smartphone will be the most used, I guess it would be an open one with usb-host support for communication.
Comment by Hugo Vincent on November 22, 2010 at 2:02pm
I doubt the built-in accelerometers, gyros, and magnetometers are any different *at all* performance-wise from the ones we hobbyists use. iOS even has a built-in sensor fusion (Kalman filter) algorithm perfectly tuned to match the sensors. I personally would guess that most hobbyists achieve worse performance (even with better sensors) due to this professionally designed, coded, and tuned fusion algorithm.
Comment by Martin Peres on November 22, 2010 at 2:04pm
Hugo: Interesting. Anyway, an arduino will always be needed to command and get information from the actuators.
Comment by jeffrey on November 22, 2010 at 3:33pm
An iphone is just a computer running linux.. Ofcurse you can flash it and do what ever you want with it.
Comment by Hugo Vincent on November 22, 2010 at 3:38pm
@jeffrey - if only that was true ;-) It remains one of the most locked down pieces of consumer electronics in history. Of course, jailbreaking and writing apps for iOS isn't so bad - you get to use their nice APIs, power management, comms, imaging etc, and technically, iOS is even a real-time operating system.
Comment by Ron Jacobs on November 22, 2010 at 3:44pm
the GPS is only up to 2 Hz. That is a bit slow refresh rate, no? For flying things anyway.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on November 22, 2010 at 3:50pm
Ron, 2Hz is a bit on the slow side, but we flew for many years with the 1Hz EM406 and that worked fine. I don't think 2Hz is a showstopper at all.

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