QNX on a moon rover



Back in September 2011, a group of McMaster business and engineering students started a project aimed to build a moon rover that would be run by the QNX operating system on a BlackBerry PlayBook - a Canadian initiative with Canadian technologies (QNX is 100% Canadian). Here is a link to the original article on CrackBerry.com from the beginning of the project: https://crackberry.com/forums-new-group-aims-put-blackberry-playbook-powered-rover-moon

I reached out to them because of that article since I’ve had experience with QNX and PlayBook development.


Long story short, right now McMaster engineering students are building the rover itself (the 3D prototype is shown to the right), and a bunch of triOS College people (myself, 2 video game programming instructors, and 4 video game programming students) are building the software and computer hardware system that will run the rover itself and have BBM functionality. Video game programming is quite involved, and can be quite low-level, which makes it perfect for this type of project.

We are working on it right now and are on track to having a functional rover that we can drive around on the ground using a BlackBerry app and WiFi connection by the end of the summer - if launched on the moon later on, we’ll use a SATCOM relay instead, as shown in the picture at the top of this post.

The actually hardware that will be in the rover will be a Panda board (which is basically the same hardware in the PlayBook – OMAP4430 CPU, 1GB RAM, camera, etc. as shown below) running QNX Neutrino and our custom software (designed from the ground up to be modular). It is important for us to use QNX since the project has a Canadian focus, but QNX is also a very powerful POSIX OS that is extremely flexible and fast, and this makes it even more important for us to use.

Panda board

People will be able to send BBM messages to the rover, and it will reply with its coordinates and a neat artificial intelligence response. For our end-of-summer demo, I’m just going to make an app that takes BBM messages I get on my BlackBerry and forwards them to the rover over the WiFi connection so that we don’t have to involve fancy routing with the BlackBerry Infrastructure to a virtual PIN on the rover itself.

Plus, we’ll also have a Space Invaders demo that, when invoked, moves the rover side to side with shooting sound effects (remember that we teach video game programming after all ;-)

We’ve received great support and resources from Dan Dodge and the fine folks at QNX. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to do this. Definitely a cool project in every way!