BeagleBone Blue for Robotics Applications: The Latest BeagleBone Single Board Computer

March 17, 2017 by Tim Youngblood

The BeagleBone Blue is now available. You can learn more about this open source robotics computer and its BeagleBone predecessors here.

The BeagleBone Blue is now available. You can learn more about this open source robotics computer and its BeagleBone predecessors here.

Go Go Beagle Rangers

The BeagleBone Foundation is somewhat similar to the Raspberry Pi Foundation if you're not familiar with them. The BeagleBone boards also share a lot of similarities with the Rasberry Pi boards. The hardware specs will depend on the specific version of the BeagleBone or RPi, but the primary difference between the two is the number of pins and USB ports.

As each board type has progressed with newer models, the Beaglebone has favored more pin headers (2x 46 headers, two USB ports), while the Raspberry Pi has favored more USB ports (40 pin headers, four USB ports). BeagleBones also run on the Debian Linux operating system. 

The BeagleBone Foundation has released a few different versions of the Beagleboard with different colors associated over the last few months. These new BeagleBones can be a little hard to keep up with, so I made a BeagleBone color key as a refresher. If you're already familiar with BeagleBones, you can skip straight to the BeagleBone Blue.

BeagleBone Black

The BeagleBone Black was the second generation of the original BeagleBone, It costs less and has more RAM than the original. The Black is basically the latest version of the original, much like newer RPi models have surpassed their previous models and subjected them to obsolescence like Sith apprentices and their former masters.

The most recent version of the Black is the BeagleBone Black Wireless which adds Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and BLE.


The BeagleBone Black Wireless

BeagleBone Green

The BeagleBone Green was developed in a joint effort with SeeedStudio for IoT applications. The Green has two Grove connectors (I2C and UART) that connect to SeeedStudio's family of Grove sensors and sensor modules.

The HDMI port was removed to make room for these connectors but it still has a trusty old ethernet port. The Green also has a wireless version now, which drops the ethernet port in favor of 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, and BLE. It also adds two more USB ports.

There is also IoT Developer Prototyping kit for the Green that comes with a Grove cape that has 12 more Grove connectors. We used one in the IoT BeagleBone Beagle Treat-Feeder project if you'd like to see one in action.


The BeagleBone Green (the Grove connectors are on the right side)

BeagleBone Blue

Thew newest member of the Beagle Rangers is the BeagleBone Blue.

The Blue is a BeagleBone adaptation geared towards robotics. It has several robotics-oriented peripherals that can be quickly implemented into mobile robots and aerial drones.

Unlike its fellow BeagleBone brethren, the Blue was designed to be more independent from the computers used to program it. This was accomplished by incorporating a power button, a reset button, and two programmable buttons. Each button has a corresponding LED to its status.


The BeagleBone Blue 

The Blue lost some GPIO pins and doesn't have an HDMI port like other BeagleBones. However, it gained two-cell LiPo battery support with 9-18V charger input.

Like the Black, it has Wi-Fi (802.11 bgn, 2.4 GHz only), Bluetooth, and BLE to integrate remote control for your new robots. It also has motor control outputs in the form of eight 6V servo outs, four DC motor outs, and four quadrature encoder inputs.

It also has a 9-axis IMU and a barometer for built-on sensors and connection interfaces for even more sensors. It also has connection interfaces for GPS, DSM2 radio, SPI, UARTs, I2C, analog, buttons, and LEDs. You can learn more about some features I probably left out in BeagleBoard's press release.

You can also watch Jason Krinder, the co-founder of and TI engineer, introducing the Blue for Embedded World (along with a montage of robots people have made with the Blue) in the video below.

Getting Started with BeagleBone Blue

If you've had a chance to use a BeagleBone Blue or if we left any resources out in the "Getting Started" section, let us know in the comments!