Have you ever dreamed of owning a personal robot? Boston Dynamic’s doglike Spot would be a great choice were it not for the hefty US$74,500 price tag. How about the DIY robot kits on Amazon? Nah, not smart enough. But don’t worry — a couple of Intel Labs researchers have proposed a novel method for building a robot called “OpenBot” on just a US$50 budget. Complete design and implementation information has been open-sourced, all you need to supply is the brain and sensory system — your smartphone.
Inspired by projects such as Google Cardboard that plug standard smartphones into cheap physical enclosures, the researchers developed and validated a design for a mobile robot that leverages a smartphone for sensory and computational abilities, communication channels and access to a software ecosystem. The robot is capable of mobile navigation with real-time onboard sensing and computation, and can perform tasks such as person-following and real-time autonomous navigation in unstructured environments.
The robot body takes the form of a compact, four-wheeled electric vehicle that cradles a standard Android smartphone, with about 40 percent of the hardware cost going to good batteries. It uses readily available electronics, and the chassis can be produced on a 3D printer.
The robot’s specially developed software stack includes an Arduino program to bridge the vehicle and the smartphone and an Android application that acts as a user interface.
The researchers conducted experiments demonstrating their creation’s robustness across different smartphones and robot bodies. They also identify additional potential capabilities, such as leveraging the smartphone’s microphone, speaker and screen for specific applications, or extending the research to aerial vehicles.
The paper OpenBot: Turning Smartphones into Robots is on arXiv.
Analyst: Yuqing Li | Editor: Michael Sarazen; Fangyu Cai
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