National Instruments' LabView 8 was a hot topic at April's Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, especially when the discussion turned to Analog Devices' Blackfin. This looks to be a match made in robot heaven with the advent of the Blackfin Handy Board (see the figure).
Fred Martin, assistant professor of computer sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, developed the Handy Board in conjunction with Analog Devices. He is building robotics courseware around the board, as well as using LabView for programming.
The NI LabView Embedded Module for Blackfin Processors also combines LabView and the Blackfin. This kit is based upon ADI's Blackfin-based ADSPBF537 EZ-Kit Lite. It includes a tightly integrated version of ADI's VisualDSP++ C development and debugging environment and LabView.
The pair provides graphical and textbased development and diagnostic tools. Check out the EiED Online section at www.electronicdesign.com for a hands-on evaluation of this kit. The kit and the Handy Board differ in the kinds of peripherals installed, but the development environment is consistent.
This type of tight integration is significant because system setup and configuration can add a lot of overhead to the project. The kit is designed to get developers to use a graphical programming environment on real hardware in an afternoon. LabView's model-based design approach meshes well with robotics work by enabling students and developers to deal with an application at a high level. Even so, the tools provide low-level access to the underlying hardware.
This environment isn't the only rapid development target for LabView. NI's own CompactRIO provides a modular development and deployment platform (see "Reconfigurable Backplane Eases Process-Control Design" at www.electronicdesign.com, ED Online 8942).
Analog Devices Inc.
Blackfin Handy Board