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.