Open Source Robots Are on the Move This Month
Open source robots are back in the news. In late May, we reported on the Arduino Robot (shown) -- which puts much of the intelligence in the open hardware Arduino kit on wheels and includes an interface for creating custom robots. The Arduino Robot's Motor Board controls motors, and the Control Board reads sensors and helps to operate. Each of the boards is a full Arduino board using the Arduino IDE. Now, there are robots arriving based on the open platform that you can control with swipes from your smartphone.
Meanwhile, at the higher end of the open source robotics scene, DARPA is underway with its Virtual Robotics Challenge, and the Open Source Robotics Foundation is participating.
As noted on the Arduino Robot project site:
"The Arduino Robot is the first official Arduino on wheels. The robot has two processors, one on each of its two boards. The Motor Board controls the motors, and the Control Board reads sensors and decides how to operate. Each of the boards is a full Arduino board programmable using the Arduino IDE."
"Both Motor and Control boards are microcontroller boards based on the ATmega32u4 (datasheet). The Robot has many of its pins mapped to on-board sensors and actuators."
The RK-1 is one of the most notable robots to appear based on this platform. You can check it out here. It uses WiFi to let you control a small robot on wheels with your iOS or Android phone. You can buy a mobile robot kit for doing your own customizations of the RK-1. This could be very fun for those inclined toward tinkering.
Also going on now is DARPA's Virtual Robotics Challenge. According to the event site:
"The goal of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) is to generate groundbreaking research and development so that future robotics can perform the most hazardous activities in future disaster response operations, in tandem with their human counterparts, in order to reduce casualties, avoid further destruction, and save lives."
Twenty-six robotics teams have made the initial cut in the challenge, and the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) is participating. You can watch a video from the foundation showing some of what is going on here. All contestants will be using Robot Operating System (ROS), which originated as an open source robotics platform from Willow Garage, now maintained by OSRF.
For more than a decade, some of the more interesting work in the field of robotics has been driven by open source efforts. You can read much more about these efforts, and find out more about the OSRF in our previous post.