Robots, even tiny ones, are generally not known for being cheap. While this is partly because of their precision-made arms, legs, wheels or whatnot, much of the cost is due to their electronic components – their sensors, input/output interfaces, and processors. Given that most people already have all of these things in their smartphone, however, why should they bother paying for them over again in a robot? Why not just temporarily make the phone part of the robot? That’s the thinking behind smartphone-based robots such as Romo, Botiful, and Polaris. The latest such ‘bot to come our way is Overdrive Robotics’ appropriately-named SmartBot.
The basic SmartBot platform takes the form of a cart with two motorized wheels. It also features an onboard MPU, two front LED lights, a speaker/buzzer, and an expansion port for firmware updates or the addition of an Arduino board. The user’s iOS, Android or Windows smartphone mounts on an adjustable-angle sticky silicone-covered plate on the front, and communicates with the platform via a cable plugged into its headphone jack.
Using the phone’s various features (depending on the make and model of phone), the SmartBot can process data, see, hear, navigate, orient itself, understand speech, and talk, among other things.
Exactly what use it puts those abilities to all depends upon the custom app that it’s running. A number are already available or in the works, including ones that let the user do things like ... remotely control the robot in real time (and see what its phone’s camera is seeing) using another mobile device; get the robot to recognize their face and interact with them; set a course for the robot to follow, by drawing it on the phone’s screen; leave the robot to wander around seeking out people’s faces (using facial recognition software) and snap photos of them; and, of course, play a variety of games.
Thanks to a number of attachment points, various optional accessories can also be added to the platform. These include a gripping hand, servo motor, cargo bed, LEGO bricks adapter, pen adapter (so the robot can draw on the surface it’s moving over), and a ball-shooting gun.
The SmartBot should be shipping as of next month. You can preorder one now for €160 in Europe, or about US$174 if ordering from non-European countries. It can be seen in action – albeit briefly – in the video below.
Source: Overdrive Robotics
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