Robots clean floors, search for injured people, and help remove bombs. They're also fun to play with. And now, improved platforms make robotic research and development easier.
Designers can use the popular Roomba and Scooba robots as development platforms with iRobot Create, which supplies access to 32 sensors and the control module. A cargo bay provides space for custom enhancements like cameras and robotic arms.
Lego's Mindstorm NXT may look like a toy, but its control module includes an ARM7 microcontroller (Fig. 1). The basic package comes with a sensor and servos. Also, third-party vendors already are extending this collection. Its graphical programming environment simplifies development. Third-party software support includes National Instruments' LabView.
Developers looking for a heavy-duty robotic platform need look no further than the Whitebox Robotics PC-Bot (Fig. 2). It packs a Mini-ITX motherboard, a wireless link, and a hefty battery and drive system in a metal and plastic frame that has plenty of built-in sensors, expansion slots, and devices. It supports a range of software, including Microsoft's Robotics Studio (see "SDK Targets Emerging Robotics Market").
Check out the "Robots" series of EiED Online articles for more hands-on details.