Using Gobetwino to debug your sensor data
Gobetwino is a free program designed to allow Arduino boards to control PC aplications. Because it reads a serial com port it is not limited to Arduino boards and will work with Picaxe, Propeller and any other MCU capable of serial output.
I have attached Version 0.5 of Gobetwino and it's manual but I have read that A new improved V0.6 is in the pipeline. I have now attatched the code used in my robot so you can see how my Arduino code controls the Excel Spread sheet using simple Serial.print() commands.
Most simple robots (such as the "Start here robot") use rangefinders as their main sensor. It does not matter if the sensor is IR or Ultrasonic, they both measure distance.
When you are programming your robot using these sensors you must remember that your robot is much like a blind person using a white cane. It must literally feel it's way around.
Being able to see what your robot see's in realtime is a powerful diagnostic tool when writing your software. In my first video, the robot's ultrasonic sensor data is displayed as a chart in excel.
In my second video, the robot analizes the sensor data and displays a detected object in a second column (displayed with a thick red line). Seeing this data allowed me to fine tune my code so that my robot could detect a drink can in a 1 meter x 2 meter playfield. With extensive testing and being able to see what the robot saw I could fine tune my code so that in most cases the can was detected.
Because a robot may need to detect objects that are not on your desk or near a computer, wireless communication is often preferable. See my tip/walk through using two Xbee modules as this was used for the second video: http://letsmakerobots.com/node/23869
The Third video shows the end results with my robot now able to locate a piece of pipe and return it to a small platform in the corner of the playfield using an IR homing beacon.