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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This is EXACTLY what I am looking for --Well, not exactly... but this is the kind of idea I want to start playing with. Something that is different, surprising, impressive --I want someone to say, "wow, that's cool --I got this kid that plays video games all day... Can you teach him how to build stuff like this?' Yeah, I like this one.

Again, I am not really giving a yea or nay on the 3-leg/beer can design --but in terms of unique? Awesome.

I guess you need something like Wall-e... That pops out and amazes people. Round like a can or square like Wall-e, perhaps something in beween? Hmm, you're more creative than me, I'm curious what you're gonna come up with.


Yup, keep 'em comin' guys --all good stuff.

3pi? I will first say that I have always liked that set-up and the 3pi specifically, I am more than happy to steal ideas there but A) I think I can do better and B) I don't speak PIC! --I should though.... Hmmmmm....

3PI is Arduino compatible, no PIC involved.

It powered by AVR!  I have done some programming on 3pi, good stuff.

What about the 3pi Robot from pololu? It fits the above categories pretty well, just needs a case for it.

Since you can control your robot by your Android phone, it would be cool to build an Android robot (like hardmouse's) but smaller.

Things that may work well:

- the robot can show personality by waving the arms and rotating it's head (R2D2 style)

- the robot can follow people or avoid objects by scanning rotating it's head

- line following sensors can be mounted in the front and the ball caster in the back

- you can do speech with the Prop or with the Arduino text to speech (lower quality though) or with a Speakjet or just playback

- the robot can dance to music


Look at this vid to get some ideas: http://hacknmod.com/hack/life-size-android-robot-running-android-os/


I am thinking something similar to this. If you plan well, I would think you could break it down into the control board w/ sensor/s, servo pack, and battery. I am not sure how TSA would view it, but, servos, a battery pack, and a small circuit board with a dozen or so components don't seem too threatening to me.