V5 Promises

Back in 2018, V5 was publicly revealed to the VEX community. Along with this reveal, we got the “V5 System Architecture” page on vexrobotics.com, which listed many of the features of the new system. Unfortunately over the years, many of these features have still yet to come to fruition. Here is a list of such features that I could find, as they were listed on that page in June of 2018:

V5 Smart Motor

The microcontroller runs its own PID with velocity control, position control, torque control, feedforward gain, and motion planning similar to industrial robots. PID is internally calculated at a 10 millisecond rate. The motor’s PID values are pre-tuned by VEX for excellent performance across all operating conditions. Users can adjust these values to tune the motor’s performance for their specific application.

This is not currently possible in the official programming solutions. Even if the APIs to do so were accessible (as they are in some 3rd party programming systems), it is not feasible to actually tune these constants, because VEX has not provided the initial value of the constants used. This was one of the parts of V5 that I was very excited about; very low latency, fast PID loops on a per motor basis that could be tuned to fit exactly the situation they were being used in. Unfortunately over the past 3 years, this functionality has not materialized.

V5 Vision Sensor

Future capabilities we plan to add:

  • Advanced line following with line location, angle, and intersections
  • Generic color sensors
  • Light level meter
  • Motion detection

This functionality has never been added to the V5 Vision Sensor. The last 3 were arguably added with the V5 optical sensor, however the first point has never appeared in any VEX product.

Wireless Connectivity

Choose Multi-Player to allow multiple teams to practice matches, with one player hosting a match and up to three other teams joining the match. Once connected, all four teams have synchronized Enable, Disable, Autonomous, and Driver Control signals. Users no longer need to have a competition switch and a stopwatch.

This functionality has never been enabled. The icon that presumably corresponds to this is actually present in the controller’s menu, however it is impossible to actually select it.

An app for iOS and Android is in development that allows remote viewing and control of the V5 Brain’s screen. This greatly extends the usefulness of dashboards by allowing viewing while testing and practicing. The app will additionally turn your phone into a sensor, allowing your robot access to time and date, GPS location, gyro and accelerometers, and the ability to Tweet.

None of this functionality has ever materialized in any way, shape, or form.

V5 Controller

Additional programmable widgets allow users to show gauges that can be digital, analog, and numerical.

This functionality has never been added (to my knowledge).

Wireless
Download and Debug at 200 kbps

Download has been stated to be in the realm of 48Kbps.
Anecdotally, debug printing seems to be significantly slower than that.

Battery

The battery has enough power to run ten V5 motors at full power continuously.

The V5 Battery can output 20 amps continuously, providing enough power to run 10 motors at peak power output.

While this may be true in theory (and at 11 watts each, the battery should easily be able to handle 20 of them stalling at once as that would be only 220w vs the battery’s rated 256w output), this has never been true in practice. V5 motors have their power limited when more than 8 are connected, and thus it is not possible to run 10 motors at full power.

V5 3-Wire Ports

Future enhancements to the 3-Wire ports are planned to allow I2C and UART communication to non-VEX sensors as well.

This would be amazing (especially for VEXU teams), but unfortunately this functionality has never appeared.

Individually, the absence of one of these features might not be a big deal. However, when the absences are combined, the picture becomes troubling. My team, along with many other teams in the VEX community, purchased V5 in the first half of 2018 with these promises of features in mind. Promises such as that V5 would support using a phone as an advanced sensor, that it would remove the need for competition switches at scrimmages, and that it would in the future be able to directly connect to I2C and UART devices greatly increased the perceived value of the system when it came time to decide if we should purchase it or not. However, in reality, many of these promised features never existed. Some of them have been removed from the most recent version of the V5 System Architecture page. However, this does nothing to address the fact that V5 was sold to us in 2018 with the promises of this functionality included. In the short term, there were more pressing concerns, such as the actual shipping date of V5, that overshadowed these (and many other) functionality shortfalls. That is why, at this point, I think it makes sense to call attention to these promises that VEX made to us in 2018.

My goal with this post is to draw attention to these promised features, with the aim that VEX will implement them. I truly believe that many of them would greatly enhance the value of the V5 platform for both competitors and hobbyists.

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All of these features seem like stuff that would greatly improve the v5 system, and I really hope they still plan to implement them. A few (such as the promises with the vision sensor) are probably unrealistic, as the expectations were set higher than the sensor is able to reliably perform in the real world.

I would especially love to have the adjustable built in motor PID functionality and the wireless practice match functionality.

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Excellent Post! Vex needs to establish some type of Developer Extension Program that would allow us access to their Secured APIs for enhancing their product line. This is not an Open source solution but a partnership that would add tremendous value.

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I’ll venture to suggest that COVID has had a lot of effect on what can be rolled out, etc.

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While true to a degree we have not heard about future plans for these features. Most companies especially in the video game industry publish a roadmap and updates along the way.

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I have consistently considered V5 to not have a lot of stuff, especially things that were promised at the beginning. I didn’t really realize the extent of this.

Some of these seem flat-out unrealistic. I doubt that a phone app had ever moved beyond a brainstorming phase. I could be wrong.

But when I think about the beginning of V5, we had a brain, battery, motors, vision sensor, radio, and controller. A handful of programming options, only one (VCS) that was made by Vex (or whoever they had make it). Now we have a lot more stuff. Inertial Sensor. Optical Sensor. Distance Sensor. Rotation Sensor. 3-Wire port expander. Workcell motors. GPS Sensor. VexCode V5 and VexCode Pro V5.

Some of these updates were driven by the Vex community. I don’t think that Vex thought they would have to create a new programming environment for V5 in VexCode. The development of LRT and LRS probably took away a little resources.

On another level, some of the technology they have developed simply has not been available to the majority of teams. Vex AI is a prime example of this. New sensors, programming, etc. that to many people remain clouded in complete mystery, if they even know of the existence of these. And I don’t think it was really simple to make all of this stuff. They discussed it at the Tower Takeover worlds livestream (or whatever that was), so they had been working on it before. Another good example of this is the workcell motors. Only sold in the workcell kit. Not legal for competition.

I will agree. Looking at this, Vex oversold V5 on several aspects. But doesn’t it remind you of all the teams at a competition (ours included) that sometimes oversell their robot? Our auton is 100% reliable. Has never failed. We can stack 13 cubes. We can get the home row and autonomous win point on our own. Just examples.

I agree with @sazrocks that we should draw attention to the features that were promised.

The goal of this reply is merely to demonstrate that V5 has not been standing still. They have made improvements and we should recognize that.

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PROS is a lightweight and fast alternative open source operating system for VEX EDR Microcontrollers.

Where is the access to APIs that will let us extend/enhance the V5 platform?

Speaking from a business side… for proprietary reasons among others I likely wouldn’t release those APIs.

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! agree. That’s why it would be some type of partnership that has some type of measurable criteria. V5/EDR is propriety so I know they would not let anyone with interest to access an API that would manipulate their hardware.

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PROS does have a partnership with VEX and has access to the API. PROS would not be able to work (at least not fully) without that API access.

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With all due respect, I find it very hard to understand what could be a good reason for educational product like V5 to stay this closed source.

I would accept that to keep competition integrity they may want to either keep their system processor side closed or better yet allow to competition only cryptographically signed system code.

But what is the reason to obscure and hide the interfaces that run in the user space? It just makes it harder to use their product to its full potential.

Sorry, but it just doesn’t make any sense to me. Please, explain. I have an engineer’s mindset, not the lawyer’s.

Edit: fixed autocorrected miss

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It has been brought to my attention that I missed one mentioned feature which is not currently present:

V5 Robot Brain - Performance
Sensor data communication to the Brain uses RS-485 - much like CAN without the overhead - which is immune to noise and static electricity.

Honestly, this would probably be the single most important promise that VEX could make good on. TVS diodes cost on the order of $0.09. VEX, please make this happen.

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