General Reviews
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Author:  RoboDesigners [ Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:27 pm ]
Post subject:  General Reviews

Ok, since this is in beta, I have a few suggestions:

What I like:
  • Same style interface as "real" ROBOTC - easy transition
  • Shortcut to open H99 website in application - great for reference
  • The realistic effects - knocking over loose barrels, rolling the robot over when it climbs too steep of a incline.
  • Choice of starting positions for the robot
  • A place to practice programming with the "real" (VEX or LEGO) robot. I've always wanted a field like the one in the curriculum, but never took the time to build one. Now I can use the field with the robot as well! :)

What could be improved:
  • Restart button goes back to "Where would you like to go?" screen. I would prefer it to restart to the selected location/starting point. Another button (maybe labeled "Home" or "Menu") would go back to the home screen.
  • In the normal ROBOTC, there is a motor/sensors setup. I would like to be able to rename motor ports (i.e. right/left motor).
  • It seems that the sonar sensor for the "big" rover has the same resolution/range as the one for the "little" rover. It would be helpful to be able to measure distances much further than 100 inches away.

What I'd like to see added in the next version (aside from fixes to above):
  • Planet H99 seems to me (although I haven't explored it much yet) to be pretty big. I'd appreciate a map that shows my current position and where my starting point was.
  • An option to increase simulation speed. Right now, I've been working on an "explore" program, and crossing long, straight stretches isn't very interesting. If I could double the simulation speed, testing the code could go much quicker.
  • A "robot specs" page. This could be just a web page, displaying info about each robot. (i.e. wheel diameter, distance between the wheels, top speed, length/width, etc.)

Some wild ideas that would be nice to have:
  • More sensors, specifically a GPS would be nice. I know it's not a typical sensor (well, ok, I think the NXT has one now), but it would be something good to have on another planet for a rover. Another good sensor would be an accelerometer for roll-over protection.
  • A motorized arm that can pick up items (like the barrels at the nuclear power plant).
  • A sensor placement wizard, letting the user place/position more sensors on the robot (like sonar sensors on the side, or touch bumpers in the back). I know this would be really hard, but it's just something that would be cool.

This programming tool is GREAT! I love it and am really excited to continue exploring Planet H99.


Author:  RobinShoop [ Sat Feb 12, 2011 1:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

Hello Andrew,

Your suggestions are right on track. We hope to implement everything that you've requested and believe it or not a lot more.

We are working very hard at building tools that will make it easy for people to learn to program.

Thanks for your help.

Author:  mightor [ Sat Feb 12, 2011 5:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

First of all, I think this virtual world thing is the best thing since sliced cheese. I've used Pyro before and graphically at least it doesn't even come close to this. This is definitely something that will appeal to kids.

I downloaded the NXT version and the first thing I noticed when loading the H99 world was that the robot in the Planet 99 was not very NXT-y. It looks like a giant tank and you can't see where the sensors are mounted. The one on the practice table is great, though.

When choosing an area to explore, I have to click the "GO" button when my instinct is to click on the actual text like a URL. The buttons need to move to right of the text to make it clearer -or- get rid of the buttons and make the text clickable.

The NXT robot seems to swerve a bit as it moves through the course, is this on purpose to mimic real life or is this a bug? If it is intentional, it's a bit unrealistic; I've built many robots and they never swerve that way. It's usually a slow movement to one particular side, not a slalom-like movement.

An additional training table with just a large empty space in the middle and just walls all around would be nice for practising motor movements programming without having to worry about banging into things.

A really cool feature would be a settings to make the world 3D using those blue/red glasses. Who doesn't want their robot to really come at them?

Having played a lot of 3D games, my instinctive reaction to move the camera around was to use my mouse buttons and mouse movement and scroll wheel to zoom. All to no avail. This would be a lot more intuitive than a few buttons at the bottom of the screen.

It would be great to make it an option to launch the last selected world when hitting F5 to compile and download and to save the position of the world window so it doesn't sit on top of the debugger window. Also make the world window not go behind the ROBOTC UI when I click stuff in the debugger.

I'll continue to play with it, this is really great, awesome work! Kudos to all the developers and designers.

- Xander

Author:  manic-cyberdog [ Sat Feb 12, 2011 6:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

Using on a low spec Netbook.
I have lenovo ideapad (Windows 7 starter 1Gb RAM), and find that the world runs very well. Frame rate is a little low, but running the NXT in the maze at low-ish speeds is fine. Window size for the world is good - and alt-tab will switch between the world and editor quickly.

Its nice to be able to test code on a small laptop, before moving to the larger PC and a real NXT.

Look forward to seeing new features, will you be publishing a devlopment timeline of new features?

Author:  koal [ Sat Feb 12, 2011 6:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

Started looking at NXT part of the project.

In general, well done! Such kind of project is most wanted thing to have for my students.

I agree mostly with Xander. Particularly, I don't like the way how to move camera in virtual world. I would prefer at least the same control as in LDD but it is also not ideal.

As Xander pointed out, the robot is swerving during movement. Moreover I just run Race Track challenge and started read the forum. When I switched back to the training table window the robot was not directed as it was before. It was turned slightly on the right. What is it? My expectation is that it is the wind. I thing it is the same reason why the robot is swerving. Can environment influence be controlled? For example, can I turn the wind off?

Can environment sounds be switched off?

I would like to see two different "Reset" buttons on the field: one to reset the same challenge, another to allow chose another challenge.

The Virtual World window is moving behind the main window when I press "start" in the Debug status. I need to move the window with the robot after that.

I can start the program even if no challenge is chosen.

Trying to run "Forward until Sonar" example on Race Track challenge. The robot makes only small step. When I am changing the threshold to 35 - the robot starts moving. Is it a bug?

It is marked as "0,4 m" between the first and second lines on the field. But my experiments show that this distance is "0,2 m" (or my understanding of sonar measuring units is incorrect).

Thanks again for your work!
Continue to play with my virtual NXT

Alex Kolotov

Author:  Sckoarn [ Sun Feb 13, 2011 12:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

Very nice initial release!
I have found a few little problems like the one stated in previous comment. I am finding that the interface gives you all you need to figure things out. The drive until sensor program ... I changed the value because at initialization, the condition was already being met. So, it does not start moving. Minor problem, just have to make use of all the resourses available. (debug windows)

Being that programming is my job, and using programming tools, I will be sure to give comments in the future. Also, being a "gamer", I look forward to see how Planet H99 evolves :)

I was wanting to learn RobotC, and look what comes along, a nice teaching tool!!


Author:  rcxking [ Sun Feb 13, 2011 4:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

I like it! :D

I'm using Virtual Worlds for NXT on a 5 year old laptop running Windows XP, 2GB RAM. I'm very pleased that you guys did a great job making it run on such old technology! The graphics are really nice, and I can't wait to see more simulated environments!

I would like to make a few suggestions though:

1) When running the actual simulation, clicking the left and right camera buttons too quickly will actually cause the camera to rotate the opposite direction.
2) A remote control feature would be nice; if my robot crashed into a wall, it's a pain to get it back out without modifying my code and downloading it again.
3) It's a little frustrating that I cannot run the simulation and the "Program Debug" window at the same time. For some reason, I have to click the Start program button, then reopen the simulation window. Putting the Start/Stop program buttons on the same window as the simulation would really help facilitate the program.

Other than that, I like this program a lot! I'm wondering if it's also possible in the future to be able to import Mindstorms robots from Lego Digital Designer into this software.

Author:  Ed Paradis [ Tue Feb 15, 2011 4:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

3) It's a little frustrating that I cannot run the simulation and the "Program Debug" window at the same time. For some reason, I have to click the Start program button, then reopen the simulation window. Putting the Start/Stop program buttons on the same window as the simulation would really help facilitate the program.

Could you explain this a bit more? I'm not sure I follow. You should be able to run, debug, stop and everything with the Virtual World window open at all times.

Do you have your windows arranged like shown in about the 10th slide of the Getting Started Demo on this page?

I'm glad you're enjoying the graphics! We're pretty excited about some of the possible future environments, too.

Author:  ThePaperplaneologist [ Tue Feb 15, 2011 5:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

I think that this program is a great idea and have enjoyed using it so far.

These are some of the changes I hope may be made.

1. As some of the others have said, it would be nice to not have the reset button take you back to the start.
2. It would be nice to have the motors and sensors setup for naming motors and sensors. I think you probably could use "#define", but it would be easier the other way.
3. The sensor options are pretty limited. Maybe this is on purpose; I don't know. I personally would like it if you could:
--A. Choose which sensors you are using and be given more choices
--B. Not set up encoders as sensors, as they aren't in actual RobotC
--C. Choose which side you robot has its sonar sensors placed on. For an exploration program this would be especially helpful.
4. Finally, it would be nice if, when the missions are released, there are some pretty tough ones. I realize that this is a teaching tool and some may not be able to handle the challenge, but for those more experienced it would be nice to have the hard missions. As a "compromise-ish-thing" you could have two sets of challenges. For me the current training area is not really worth the time, but a random maze generating challenge might be fun. (that last idea certainly doesn't need to be implemented.) I don't mean to sound arrogant; I have yet to make an effective exploration program and am sure some of you others have.
5. I'm not sure what the design crew has in mind for the missions, but I think that in the actual missions, the robot should be put back in it's starting position after the robot's program finishes executing.
6. It might be nice to have a 2x speed option where everything happens twice as fast. This would be good in the scenarios like where the robot is driving down a long straight alley and getting to the end takes a while. Though, I don't know if this would actually end up using more cpu and thus not run on slower computers, which would be a bad thing.

All in all, it is a pretty neat idea and is fun to work with.

Author:  grenegg9 [ Wed Feb 16, 2011 4:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

Any plans for a screen on the robot and being able to interact with it? (Such as maybe a way for me to test my Pokemon game, without reinstalling windows in order to make my robot work?)

Author:  droidfreak36 [ Thu Feb 17, 2011 6:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

One thing I think would be good is to integrate all the elements into one window. The window could contain a sidebar with the H99 screen and all the buttons to control it (including reset that doesn't select position and a button that does select position) and have the main section be the RobotC code. Motors and sensors setup, including placing your sensors and being able to use several types of sensors would be nice too. Another thing you might do with that is let the robots have more than 4 sensors, because there are no physical limitations. I also think it would be good to scale the sonar so programs will work roughly the same on big and small robots.

As for being realistic, a few things should be changed. Real robots usually tend to go off to one side, meaning that there is a real reason to use encoders or a compass sensor for navigation. As far as I can tell, the simulator doesn't do that well. As I remarked in my post about sonar, that could use a few improvements too. The sonar in H99, unlike real sonar, detects only things the robot will actually run into if it goes straight and will detect anything in it's path that it can run into, whereas real sonar detects things in a triangular area and detects only flat objects. This is nice, because these things are desirable qualities in an obstacle detection system, but they aren't like the real world.

Other than those changes, I'm liking this program. I'm looking forward to seeing those missions.

Author:  Ed Paradis [ Thu Feb 17, 2011 7:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

The virtual sonar is modeled after the real sonars of a VEX and NXT robot in that it "fans out" in front of the robot. Increasing (or decreasing :) ) the "realism" of the sensors is something I'm looking into.

Author:  rcxking [ Thu Feb 17, 2011 9:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

Ed Paradis wrote:
3) It's a little frustrating that I cannot run the simulation and the "Program Debug" window at the same time. For some reason, I have to click the Start program button, then reopen the simulation window. Putting the Start/Stop program buttons on the same window as the simulation would really help facilitate the program.

Could you explain this a bit more? I'm not sure I follow. You should be able to run, debug, stop and everything with the Virtual World window open at all times.

Do you have your windows arranged like shown in about the 10th slide of the Getting Started Demo on this page?

I tried following the Getting Started Demo, and I even closed out the Compiler Window, but I still can't keep both the Run/Stop/Debug Panel and the Virtual World Window open at the same time. If I click on one of them, the other window minimizes itself.

Author:  Crazed_Persona [ Fri Feb 18, 2011 3:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

I have noticed on the coding that when you debug that the timing is off. I am not using a timer and just using the "wait1Msec()" code and it is inconsistent in the timing. I will run the code then reset the area and run it again in the same area and I am not be able to get consistent results. The results always end in a different outcome. If this was designed in then it makes it really hard to code. If it is an error then please try and fix it. And I have seen the swerving mentioned above. That is pretty consistent amongst nxt and tetrix robots. I have programmed in the NXT software and RobotC and both create inconsistancies like the swerving.

Author:  Ed Paradis [ Fri Feb 18, 2011 5:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: General Reviews

If you have the NXT version of RVW, could you go to the Training Table and write a program that exhibits the problem you're seeing? While the program is running, watch the frames per second readout in the top left corner of the RVW window. Try to see if a dip in the frames per second correlate with the strange behavior.

It'll really help me understand the root of the problem you're having.

Unfortunately, the frames per second counter isn't included any where else. :( It has to be the NXT version and the Training Table.

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