As I mentioned in this column, 25 of Silego's GPAK4 mixed-signal FPGA development kits are currently winging their way to the folks who teased and tempted me the most with their imaginative project proposals.
One of these guys was Harjit Singh, who hails from the state of Washington. In his email to me, Harjit managed to press two of my hot buttons at the same time — space and robots.
More specifically, in Harjit's message he said: “I'd like to be considered for a GPAK4 development kit because I want to see if I can use it to create a robust watchdog system for use in space. Also, I build robots and I would like to see if I can use a GPAK4 for sensor conditioning.”
Now, when someone says “robot,” I have to admit that my knee-jerk reaction is of a full-size humanoid creation like Ada in my Alex + Ada column. In this case, however, Harjit was actually referring to a micro-mouse incarnation as illustrated in this video (also, you can click here to see a bunch of videos staring Harjit as himself along with his performing mice).
Did you see how fast the mouse was? If that scampered across the floor in front of me when I wasn't expecting it, I think you'd hear me squealing like a schoolgirl while leaping onto the nearest table. These micro-mice are really rather impressive, especially when you compare them to this demonstration by Claude Shannon in the 1950s. My initial reaction when I first saw this was: “Good grief, how on earth could they make robot mice this small in the 1950s?”
It only took me a few seconds to realize what they must have done — or, at least, to decide the way in which I would have achieved this using the technology of the time — and I was right. As you'll see if you watch the video, the “brain” of the mouse is a honking big relay computer that's hidden out of sight, while its “muscles” (motive force) are actually located in the table.
Returning to today's micro-mice, Harjit informs me that mouse competitions take place across the US (who would have thunk?), and that the next big one will occur next March at APEC 2016.
All of this has set my mind buzzing. First, I wonder what Claude Shannon's reaction would have been if I were to hop into my trusty time machine and take one of Harjit's micro-mice back to the 1950s. Second, I want to build my own micro-mouse. Maybe a bunch of us could get together to build an Embedded.com version. I'm hoping to persuade Harjit and his fellow Mouseketeers (I'm sorry, I couldn’t help myself) to write a column telling us more about the physical specifications for the mice and the goals of the competition. Until then, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to watch some more mouse videos (and it's not often you'll hear me say that).