Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Sphero, a Boulder, CO-based consumer robotics and toy company, has selected Nordic’s nRF52832 Bluetooth® Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) System-on-Chip (SoC) as the primary processor and low power wireless connectivity solution for its ‘Sphero RVR’. Sphero RVR is a programmable robot for beginners to advanced coders, STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics) educators and students, as well as makers, hackers, and hobbyists.
The robot is an all-terrain programmable and expandable product that can be driven right out of the box and customized for unique use cases and applications. For example, RVR could be used as a home security sentry, autonomous metal detector, or wirelessly controlled environmental sensor, among a broad range of user-coded applications. It features a diverse suite of sensors enabling the robot to interact with its environment including an ambient light, color, infrared, accelerometer, and gyroscope.
The Nordic SoC-enabled Bluetooth LE connectivity allows the user to wirelessly code RVR from the ‘Sphero Edu’ app on a Bluetooth 4.0 (or later) smartphone or tablet. The companion app is compatible with iOS and Android smartphones and tablets plus macOS, Windows, Chrome OS, and Fire OS devices. Coding options within the companion app are based on the user’s skill level. Alternatively, RVR can be coded using a Raspberry Pi, Arduino, a Nordic-powered micro:bit, or the company’s own ‘littleBits’ platform to customize the robot’s capabilities further.
As well as providing the robot’s Bluetooth LE connectivity, the Nordic nRF52832 multiprotocol SoC’s
64MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex® M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU) handles the device’s power control, battery management, color sensing, ambient light sensing, and RGB LED animations. The nRF52832 combines the Arm processor with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5, ANT™, and proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol software) featuring -96-dB RX sensitivity, with 512kB Flash memory in part for storage of RVR’s factory data, and 64kB RAM.
The nRF52832 SoC is supplied with Nordic’s S132 SoftDevice, a Bluetooth 5-certified RF software protocol stack for building advanced Bluetooth LE applications. The S132 SoftDevice features Central, Peripheral, Broadcaster, and Observer Bluetooth LE roles, and supports up to twenty connections. Nordic’s software architecture also includes a clear separation between the RF protocol software and Sphero’s application code, simplifying development and ensuring the SoftDevice doesn’t get corrupted when developing, compiling, testing, and verifying the application code.
RVR includes a rechargeable, high-capacity battery to both power the robot’s motors, as well as cameras, robotic arms, air horns, or other external accessories that can be fitted to the robot. The nRF52832 SoC has been engineered to minimize power consumption with features such as the 2.4GHz radio’s 5.5mA peak RX/TX currents and a fully-automatic power management system that reduces power consumption by up to 80 percent compared with Nordic’s nRF51 Series SoCs.
“The key features of Nordic’s nRF52832 SoC for RVR are its generous Flash and RAM capacity, the powerful Arm processor, and the low power features that achieve longer battery life and leave more power available for the user to drive, play, and learn,” says Jeff Wiencrot, Director of Firmware & Hardware at Sphero.
“Another major factor in our decision to select a Nordic solution was the availability of Nordic’s S132 SoftDevice and SDK [Software Development Kit], which are both extremely powerful and easy to work with for developers. All of our robots run specialized application code written by our team of firmware engineers, and we heavily leveraged the Nordic SDK to speed up that work.
“Nordic is a fantastic company to work with and an ideal partner for a company like Sphero.”