There are plenty of Arduino-based robots in the world, but actually building one is a bit tough if you're not familiar with Arduino programming. But a company called ArcBotics has created an Arduino-based robot called "Sparki" that can be used—and programmed—by anyone. You don't have to assemble it yourself; the little plastic robot will be ready to go out of the box with an included remote control. To let users create additional functionality, ArcBotics is preparing programming samples and tutorials for controlling the robot's sensors and actuators. Sparki is a Kickstarter project (of course), one that has raised nearly $14,000 toward its minimum goal of $60,000, with 29 days left. The robot will be sold for $99 when it's available, and Kickstarter pledges of $99 or more will reserve you a robot with an estimated delivery of October 2013. The robot designs will be released publicly for those who want to build their own. ArcBotics previously used Kickstarter to raise money for its "Hexy the Hexapod" robot kit, aimed at more advanced users. ArcBotics' stretch goals for Sparki of $100,000, $200,000, and $300,000 would allow it to build an Android app to control Sparki via Bluetooth, a wireless data radio for communicating with other Sparki robots, and a drag-and-drop block programming environment, respectively. Sparki is mostly geared toward education, with a suggested age of 11 and up. But there's nothing stopping adults from using Sparki as an easy introduction to Arduino programming. "To write your own programs, just plug it in via USB, install the custom-enhanced Arduino software and try any of the dozens of example programs," ArcBotics wrote. "We have programs for every sensor and actuator on Sparki."
Sparki uses an ATMega32 processor and a custom bootloader to run Arduino functionality. It has a distance sensor to calculate the distance to walls and objects, an accelerometer, light-sensing phototransistors to seek out light or dark, edge detection sensors, infrared transmitters and receivers, a serial port for connection to an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, motors, a buzzer for making sounds, Bluetooth, a 128x64 LCD screen, and a marker holder that allows it to draw. Sparki is powered by 4 AA batteries. Programming tutorials will start with "edge avoidance, line following, maze solving, wall avoidance, room navigation, object retrieval, follow/hide from light sources, shape drawing, computer input (make a keyboard/mouse using sensors), and games with other Sparkis." Users can also learn more advanced concepts like PID (proportional-integral-derivative) loops, path-finding algorithms, signal filtering, and heuristics.