Wednesday, April 13, 2011

HLL for Boy Scouts and Education

Visit the High Level Logic (HLL) Website
— Home of XPL (eXtensible Process Language)

It's like XML, but you can store source code in it.

Unique in Character

The Boy Scouts now offer a merit badge for robotics. Having prototyped HLL in a robotics project, of course my mind turned to how HLL might be useful in this setting.

HLL is still a bit raw, but already useful to more advanced developers. In the hobby league, I've posted my experience setting up a LEGO Brick to run Java so that LEGO robots can interact easily as HLL components (although there are other ways to do it). HLL can be used to set up scenarios and do any special “thinking” that's needed when running them. Due to the limited memory and processing capability of a Brick, it's most likely that the on-board Java component would do little besides accepting commands and initiating their execution.

Of course, if this is the big trick of integration, it can as easily work with anything – up to and including the most sophisticated robots for any purpose. In larger systems, even the robot's HLL processing and all its specialized components could be on-board, with another HLL installation (anywhere) for the human controllers. Other robots and other operators could all be tied together via HLL for the ultimate cooperative work, or even gaming experience.

Back to Boy Scouts and Education: I have a plan – have had from the start. Sometimes my plans are slow to evolve because I don't always get tons of money to implement them every time I write one. If you've been following this blog and / or the project, you might have noticed that it's been going a bit slowly lately. But in my view, the plan supports use of HLL from the start of the educational process through the most complicated commercial possibilities. And that does seem interesting.

In my envisioned plan, there is a version 1.x in which HLL's sophisticated technology lies beneath easy to use configuration tools. Supported by its open architectural design and open source offering, the underlying technology will still be accessible to advanced developers. Ultimately however, HLL should support rapid prototyping and scenario (mission) development by non-programmers. I would hope that in later versions, the tools and application support components, would be so powerful that all application developers would typically build their applications using only the configuration tools. But even in version 1.x, there should be many interesting possibilities for the beginner. And let's not underestimate beginners. If the tools are right, the greatest successes will come from the best ideas. How would I know who will have them?

So, let's just imagine the maximum potential for HLL. Someone uses it in the process of getting a Boy Scout merit badge. Continuing interest sparks a number of additional hobby projects during high school, each with greater sophistication and usefulness. (If we're imagining, we might as well imagine first place in a national science fair competition as well as a Siemans Westinghouse Technology Award.) During his college years, he writes a series of unique HLL application components and demonstrates their use in a for-credit undergraduate project.

He either goes on to graduate school where he writes a thesis that takes the architecture another great step, or uses his unique application components to create a new line of useful commercial robots – or both.

In any case, even if this is all – at present – just in my imagination, it does underline an important element in the unique character of HLL. I know of no robotics software tool with as much range and potential as I've described. Now, if I could just get the project moving again.

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