Let's Make Robots!

Ideas for "portable" or "backpack-ready" robot

I find myself more and more out in the non-robot-speaking world telling people that I "build robots". From there, there is a long pause and then me, stuttering through a terrible explanation of what these "robots" actually are. I have tried words like "electronics hobbyist" and "educational robots" and "classroom settings" --I have even tried "hardware developer specializing in the domestic,hobbyist and educational fields". Its usually a tough crowd though.

I was thinking how nice it would be to just have one with me --a robot that is. Nothing too fancy and certainly not too big but one that shows the basic idea of what we do around here. The fairly obvious issue (among many potential issues) is of course the fact that most of our robots (LMR-style) are not exactly ready to be thrown in a backpack or satchel to be carried around.

I am in the brainstorming stage of the game now and am quite overwhelmed with the number of options/issues/designs and features. I do have one or two of the basics out of the way:

  • Must be a PCB chassis
  • Will use micro-gear motors and (what are they? 32mm?) wheels
  • Examples are Here and Here (The second is not a PCB chassis but falls in the same category)
  • Tiny lipo, charger and booster (maybe usb charge)

From there, there are just too many things to think about... Here is the "storm" from the brain storming:

  • Outside body --some kinda case, cube or sphere --open by removing a "lid" or maybe some kinda clam-shell design
  • Some kinda full-on transformer set-up. I.e. distance sensor flips up and out like a retractable camera flash
  • Overall size of maybe around 10cm*10cm*10cm
  • Case must be dust-proof (or at least dog-hair proof and little-crumbs-of-tobaccoo proof)
  • Case is going to get some light banging around in a back pack
  • Maybe skip the backpack and instead make a "lunchbox"  or "purse" with a handle on top
  • Sensors?
  • Must be sorta sealed when "backpacked" but maybe with the ability to show off its guts
  • It would be AMAZING if I could make this look "store-bought" enough to get it past security at the airport

Now, what will it do? How does one "show off a robot" or what is the best way to show what robots "can do" --you also gotta throw some personality in here as well. The intent is to impress someone and/or spark an interest and cause the person to want to know more. We should also think about where I might be most likely to set this guy down to run. --Floor? Desk? More brainstorming:

  • I would think that a desk-bot with edge/ledge detection would be the most likely to be usable anywhere. 
  • if it is a desk bot, maybe a circle? Wheels closer to the center with a ring of IR sensors along the rim?
  • Linefollow/ maze <-- I have no problem carrying a roll of elec. tape with me to make a quick track on a tile floor.
  • Object avoid. <--MUST do this. Most people, I think, have "gee-whiz" moments seeing something go by itself
  • Audio and speaker <-- this goes back to chassis and size.
  • Some kinda "person follow" <-Dagu Mr. General style-sensor or maybe a wii-camera (just the camera) and an IR pen
  • Games of some kind?
  • Would like this to talk to my phone, but don't know if I can afford the space to add the BT unit
  • Some kinda display? I am partial to the fancy uLCD units I have been using --Maybe the little 1" guy on the steam-punk bot
  • I could keep going --I got a million ideas and questions.

I think I have said enough --I will officially open the thread to anything you got. I would most like to see overall designs of the chassis and body. Napkin sketches, google sketch-up, etc. Just start throwing out ideas, guys.

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I'm up for organizing a competiton since there seems to be some interest, what would be some good prizes that people can offer? I guess I could put money in to get a couple tamiya gearboxes and tank track kits.

I think we need a transformer challenge. Make a small robot that folds up to look like an innocent lunch box, lollie tin, stack of CD's whatever.

The robot should not be reconizeable as a robot until it unfolds and walks, hops, spins away.

Give it a couple of months so we begginers can have time to do something too and I'm in :D

Hard to believe but I think I am going wiidar on this one. I did some playing with some brass tube and some round PCB spacers and I have made a pretty good sliding joint. A simple disc would sit on top and slide up and rotate. Just under that disc would be the laser and wiicamera. It would be a very simple mechanism, would raise and lower easily and would seal well with the case when closed. In terms of the wiidar system, I think it would give me the most bang for the buck --First off, lasers are cool. People like lasers (and they like to do the finger quotes and say, "laaayy-seeerr"). Next, any real problem with wiidar "systems" is solved by the fact that this robot is so small. I don't need 3 meters range, just a couple feet. I don't need a burn-your-eyes-out laser either. Finally, I now have something that can track and follow IR light beacons. This gives me docking, follow the leader, hide and go seek, and human tracking (if that human is holding the IR "pen"). That is a LOT of bang right there...

Think of a tuna can upside down on top of a larger tuna can. The smaller can slides up, rotates and fires its laser and retracts. Not to mention, the whole deal is sliding up and down on the pcb spacers --the same spacers that need to be there anyway.

Arrrgh! can't get a WiiMote a.t.m. I'll just use regular IR sensors for now, perhaps through in a US sensor. So far my robot will have about 10 servos, including the cont. rotation for driving. No legs I'm afraid. I demonstrate the Search and Rescue challenge with this robot, if I can finish it in time. Popping wheels, arms, head, oh my! So many things to do!

Seems to be quite close to your specs.

Want the DXF files?

Would a PIR Sensor work for following someone... Considering how it works... you could probably program it to find that movement.. pinpoint it, and move to it.

i agree that you should hack a wally toy.

i am currently working on a small wall-e figure, making it into a line follower, and
there is an amazing amount of space inside the cubical body. also he has rather big feet,
which work well to obscure the motors i put in.

i imagine a larger wall-e toy would give you lots of room to work with, and having it look good like that
will make allot of difference impression non technical people.
i have noticed that allot of people just seem to tune out when they see a regular naked style robot,
and fail to be impressed no matter how smart it behaves.

as you can see there is allot of room in just this little 1"x1"x1" cube.
there is even room left over in the feet for edge sensors (but no room for a brain large enuff to use them obviously)

there are lots of wall-e toys, and i bet there is one out there that is just perfect for what you want to do...

Keeping with the 10cm*10cm idea (which keeps the PCB cost WAY down) and then leaning more to the cylinder camp, I have successfully googled "4 inch clear PVC". They make it, but it is wicked expensive --around $300 for a 10' section. Hooray! There are potato-gun nerds out there! From what I am led to believe, night time potato shooting is not only an activity, but the people who do it have suppliers!

4" Clear, Schedule 40, PVC pipe --and you can buy a 1' section for 32 bucks!

It should be a peice of cake to adhere a flat peice of plexi on one end and then use a flush-cut router bit to trim it exact. Put the equavilent to a 3pi (but better) inside with a double-decker arangement and boom. In terms of a case, I can simply buy a 4" pvc cap (does not have to be clear) which will slip on exactly and cover the exposed wheels. --I looked up clear endcaps thinking that I could skip gluing the flat peice on the top of the tube. They were cool, all "dome-y" at the top and slick, but at $120, not so much.

Now I just gotta figure out how to make it cool. Everything internal and/or pop-out and I gotta figure out what to do with the main distance sensor. --Speaking of which, has anyone tried to shoot a sharp through a curved window?

I feel I am going somewhere here... Feels good.