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A Fully Programmable Mobile Robot 86

paxmaniac writes "iRobot has announced Create: a new fully programmable mobile robot based on the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. People have been hacking the Roomba since the day it came out. Well, hacking just got a whole lot easier. A command module for the Create provides a programmable 8-bit Atmel micro controller, four DB-9 ports for your own sensors, and a number of sample programs that can be compiled and uploaded to the command module via USB. Botmag has more details and some cool applications. This looks like the perfect robotics platform for hobbyists, schools, and universities alike."
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A Fully Programmable Mobile Robot

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  • Daleks anyone? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by videoBuff ( 1043512 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:39PM (#17530786)
    Looks perfect for making daleks.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:40PM (#17530828) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, what can a hacked Roomba offer that's better than all that?

    It's based on Atmel AVR, so you don't need help with programming environment, bytecode, etc. It's an AVR.

    Not only can you therefore write the code right down to the metal, but you have access to at least two fully supported languages (they will support C, atmel provides tools for asm as well and they're quite good) and it's an excellent processor to boot.

    NXT is very cool, and I want some a whole lot. But this has its place. Lego constructions are less sturdy than machines made with purpose-built components. On one hand, this device is less configurable than legos. On the other hand, this device is lighter, more powerful, and more durable.

    In other words, this doesn't supplant NXT. Arguably, you might find a case in which you would like to use them both together. you could also use the former mindstorms; AVR chips are good at providing you RS-232 and routines are typically provided for this purpose, so you could use the serial IR tower from mindstorms on your robot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @06:46PM (#17530918)
    Go read about the "Uncanny Valley" - you may want to rethink that. Beyond a certain (and not very human-like) point, people get very uncomfortable (think of creepy trained chimps having a tea party...).

    People relate *much* better to not-particularly-human-like robots. Robot vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers are doing quite well these days here (eurozone), but I suspect if they looked anything like humanoid slaves, people would be a bit freaked out!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:08PM (#17533662)
    You are obviously not acquainted with the Atmel. In fact I doubt you're acquainted with any microcontroller or why and where they're used by the way you talk. You want to put a 400MHz processor on this thing? Why? Simplicity is beauty. An ARM or any processor above 8 bits is simply overkill, too expensive, too complicated, and totally unnecessary. We're not doing bleedin object oriented programming here. 8 bit processors can do anything - USB, Ethernet, CAN, Bluetooth, Zigbee, RFID, you name it. If you don't believe me check out Atmel's site, or PIC 's site, or Freescale's site. And in my opinion, Atmel is the best choice for any 8 bit microcontroller project, period. Atmel has the best, cleanest, fastest, lowest power chip architecture of any 8-bit process, and the development software is free. The chips include every peripheral form A/D to USART built in. They make processors that range from 100's of pins to 8 pins. The software does full software simulation of any chip, ANY chip they make, and it interfaces with their development hardware or any of the million odd fully-functional knockoff products out there you can find on eBay for less than $50. Further, their development kits are CHEAP, and they recently introduced a programmer and in-system debugger (debug on the actual hardware that is) for $50 that will program and debug most of their chips. Don't know 8 bit microcontrollers, and DON'T knock Atmel.
  • by dino213b ( 949816 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:01AM (#17534628)
    In my experience, the biggest problem that's hindering development of anthropomorphic robots is lack of standardized parts, and their likelihood of being affordable. Most amateur robot builders start from the very scratch and work their way up and in this process find that, while they can themselves afford to take some shortcuts, many have to waste their budgets on what seems the silliest of things in the great scheme of things. In the end, the enthusiasm behind robot building ends up in the designer spreading themselves thin across the details of a project.

    For example, they might have wanted to create a robot that will locate a TV's well-used remote controller once everyone leaves the house, and put it on a designated area on the living room table and then plug themselves into the wall to recharge.

    This task is fairly easily defined in pseudo-code and by use of common sense, sensors can be used to simplify the execution of this task. The problem is, the designer would have to work on mechanical and electrical issues such as H-bridges for motors or motor controllers, instead of just software to make the robot do what it is supposed to. That spreads their patience thin and causes them to give up on the project at some point or settle for a quality they wanted to avoid in the first place.

    So.. as a good example, the DARPA challenge that took place a few years ago showed us what happens when you have to deal with both hardware (vehicles) and computers (software-figuratively speaking, I know it's technically hardware as well..). If my memory serves me correctly, a great deal of competitors ended up with disabled vehicles from purely mechanical reasons. Imagine what would have happened if all the competitors had the exact same vehicles in exact same conditions, exact same sensors, and were just left to develop software to guide it? I suspect the contest would have yielded better results.

    So the question is, how much of your time do you spend actually designing what the robot will do, and how much of your task do you deal with its hardware and how it will perform its tasks? In my humble opinion, I believe that the hardware development is causing a major slowdown in robotics. It would help if some affordable standardization existed.

    I would be more productive if I purchased a "blank mac-formatted robot" (ala Futurama) and spent my time writing software for it instead of working out on just how to make a 2KB PIC microcontroller communicate with 20 sensors and 10 actuators using one signal wire and I2C.

    Someone should fund me so I can start an open-source robotics project: to make geeks of the world unite in our struggle against physical labor!

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson