Mechatronics and robotics research efforts of large complexity are increasingly interdisciplinary involving collaboration between software, hardware, controls, and scientific teams. Traditionally, the level of integration has either required repeated site-visits or location of the teams at a common site. As the teams become increasingly diverse and disperse, there is a need for distributed operations platform that not only facilitates smooth communications, but also allows for remote experimentation and control of a common robot or device. By separating the principal design functions, a modular communications platform was developed to support the distance learning and experimental requirements of ambitious mechatronic development projects. This separation results in a modular system that is scalable and customizable to the particular conditions governing an experiment. The platform leverages off-the-shelf hardware and software and the presence of Internet connectivity. Where possible, open-source options were used to make the platform extensible to a variety of platforms and applications. The system is modular and consists of: a video observation/conferencing module, a file-transfer module, and a robot teleoperation module. This allowed multiple teams to test the operation of a robot independently and asynchronously without corrupting the work being conducted by another team member. It also allowed for new forms of interaction and reduced the need for travel between the multiple geographically-distributed research teams. Novel features of this work include a modular multiplatform architecture and an integration of basic telerobotics principles to extend PC-based collaboration/conferencing technologies from a basic communications platform to a means for supporting multi-site (robotics) research experiments. This paper describes the design considerations and evaluations associated with the development of the Great Little Inter link (GL-Link) architecture. This platform was motivated by robotics research ongoing between Stanford and Ohio State Universities. The platform was tested over several months as part of the design of a high-speed quadruped robot. Results from this trial highlight the impact of highly sensitive audio and video inputs and show the need for robustness to bandwidth fluctuations.

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