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I am looking to build some custom hardware (nothing too fancy, just some motors, cameras and the like), and I need it to be controlled by my laptop (its going to have to do a non-trivial amount of image processing).

Is there a way to attach $n$ motors to a laptop where $n<10$ via USB/e-SATA? It seems like something that should be very easy to solve, but I can't seem to find it anywhere.

I am not looking to get an Arduino/Raspberry Pi, really just connect the motors, and be able to control them individually. I am comfortable adding more power from a second source to supplement the USB power.

Ideas?

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closed as too broad by Ben, Josh Vander Hook, Andrew Mar 3 '15 at 16:17

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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The hardware you are looking for are the controllers from the canadian company Phidgets (http://www.phidgets.com/)
They have lot of different sensor, actors and communication interfaces connected to a PC/Laptop with USB. The "physical Widgets" are pretty easy to use, because you get a relatively good API along with the boards.
The disadvantage of them: They cost a lot compared to the workaround solutions with arduino/ras-pi/mbed/beaglebone

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  • $\begingroup$ Can I shunt the computation from a Pi to my laptop, or once I use a Pi its basically standalone? $\endgroup$ – soandos Jan 30 '15 at 7:05
  • $\begingroup$ You can use the PI (or an arduino, which is easier) as a dumb hardware interface. Plugin the device at your laptop's usb port and then send from the computer commands, the hardware interface gets the command and then write or read a port. I did something with an arduino due. I designed a Hardware board and now I have a fully functional industrial PLC, which has some modularity. I can send commands from the PC and my controller just switches or read the inputs. $\endgroup$ – TobiasK Jan 30 '15 at 7:12
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Other possible source of electronics for such applications are pololu, adafruit, and sparkfun. All three of them offer all sorts of motor controllers, servo controllers, sensor interface boards, etc.

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