Sunday, November 14, 2010

The raison d'etre

Still waiting on donations so I can buy components. In the meantime, here's a look at a similar endeavor, the senior project of a group of students at the University of Houston.

There are actually a lot of videos of similar internet controlled robots on Youtube, the original inspiration for the project.

I thought to myself, what if robots like these became a commonplace extension of the internet? What if for every location you can click on for info in Google Earth, you could also click "drive robot" and personally check it out?

The biggest obstacle to this is cost. The components for building custom telepresence robots make it something only hobbyists with a lot of disposable income can consider. The second biggest obstacle is technical expertise. Public access telepresence robots will never become commonplace so long as they have to be custom built by someone at every participating location.

Rather than give up on the idea, having owned a Rovio for some time, and having played with a Spykee I bought for my Nephew last Christmas, I thought "these may be toys, but aren't they good enough? With a few other off the shelf components anyone can afford and put together, couldn't a shop owner, or a hotel manager, or a principal, or anyone interested in having a telepresence robot available for public use set one up?"

So I compiled a list of the necessary capabilities the robot and support station would need to have, and set out looking for products that fit the bill, and that would play nicely together. The result was a design that wouldn't be very pretty and certainly not as efficient as a custom built robot, but one that everyone and their dog is capable of reproducing at home.

It's my hope that once I do this, and show how entertaining/interesting it can be, copycats will spring up. Using the same products or similar, people who ordinarily aren't interested in robotics because of the learning curve or the cost, each making a physical location accessible by telepresence that wasn't before. And who knows? Maybe the next time you want to check out a theater, hotel, restaurant or even nature park before you get there, you'll do it via robot.

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