Build a Robot
This is the invisible robot, the machine with sensors, brains, and actuators, that doesn't look like a robot at all. Embedded systems is one of the fastest growing areas of digital technology, but its modest, behind-the-scenes (under-the-hood, inside-the-walls) nature means that it's off of most people's radar. And because of their very un-botish nature, we won't really be spending too much time discussing embedded robotics here.
FIGURE 4.3 JPL's latest robo-critter, Spiderbot, is designed for extraplanetary exploration. Let's hope it doesn't get blown away in a stiff Martian wind. Photo used with permission of NASA/JPL/Cal Tech.
Embedded robots vary greatly in body type, depending on their function and environment. They are usually highly integrated into their world (a new home, the signs and light poles of a highway, the guts of an orbiting satellite), which is why we tend to overlook them.
The SDR-4X (Sony Dream Robot), Sony's diminutive answer to Honda's Asimo. The SDR looks human-sized in many pictures, but it's actually tiny (23 inches tall). When it's available for sale, the SDR-4X will cost as much as a luxury car! Photo courtesy of Sony Corporation.
The Development Platform
This type of robot is a little different than the rest. In research labs, school classrooms, and garages and basements all over the world, piles of mechanical, electronic, and computer parts can be seen motoring around, trying to make sense of their world.
Bots of this type are often the least "style" conscious, and often have no shell. The form is usually the lowest priority and often takes the shape of a couple of large disks stacked on top of each other, separated by spacers (see Figure 4.5).
Here, the robot body only exists to allow the experimenter to test out control programs, sensor arrays, and other robot components. Information gained by experimenting on these platforms is often incorporated into more solid, robust robots.
Bots of this type usually have an extremely simple structure made of readily available materials and sport a constantly changing array of hardware. The robot we will build in Project 3 is a miniature version of such a development platform.
The type of simple platform seen here (without other components mounted) is a common sight in university labs and hobby workshops all over the world. Photo reprinted courtesy of Budget Robotics.com.
NEXT: Robots: The Exploded View
The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Building Robots by Gareth Branwyn, ISBN-10: 0-78972971-7 is available from InformIT. Permission to reprint granted by Pearson Publshing.