What is the Netbot?
The NetBot is a generic open robot platform designed to be simple to modify to do whatever you want it to do. The goal of the robot is to be a cost efficient way for you to play with bigger robots. The main feature of the robot is the processor, which can be pretty much any kind of netbook or laptop you happen to have laying around the house.
Wait… a laptop for the main processor, why?
Most robotics platforms today, either use a low cost controller like the Arduino or similar processor which is capable of handling basic small sensory inputs but cannot handle more intensive processes such as image processing, or they use an ARM processor, which can cost an enormous amount and still not get you the kind of processing power you need for some tasks. Robots that do provide the processing power you need can cost several thousand dollars. What most of us forget though is that if you are reading this through a laptop, you’re using a device with more than enough power to control a simple robot. Not only that, but your laptop costs a fraction of what it would cost to buy a robotics platform with similarly powerful embedded processor.
What’s with that crazy Omni-Directional Drive system?
To be honest, we thought it looked awesome. But apart from that, it is also a practical drive system, when designing the robot we set ourselves a criteria, and in that criteria was also maneuverability. If there’s one thing this robot is, it’s maneuverable. The diameter of the frame is 2ft allowing it to drive through doorways with moderate ease, and the center laptop holder can extend to at least 4ft allowing you to use the robot as a telepresence robot if you wish.
Ok, i still don’t get it, what’s the robot do?
Whatever the heck you want it to do!
Can I modify the Aluminum frame to fit x in?
Sure, in fact, we’d love to see what you come up with. Send us pictures and videos if you wish and we will post it. The idea is to make the robot, your own robot. There are no special modular devices you have to buy, you can just take it apart and cut up the frame to fit whatever you want into it. the robot is yours, do what you want with it!
Cool, where can i get one?
Currently nowhere. In fact, no robot exists yet. Only an extensive amount of CAD designs and a little bit of software. The prototype is in development now, and videos will be posted once it is finished. Even then it will probably be a while until the robot is available to the public, but keep an eye on the blog for updates.
What’s the cost?
The goal is to make this robot available for under $1000, but the prototype is being developed for under $500. The prototype is pretty much the bare minimum cost we could come up with. The final robot will be around a thousand dollars because we want the robot to be the most affordable, best quality robot possible.
Will it be open source?
We are probably going to release the software open source, but we do not know whether we will release the hardware open source at this time.
How do you program the robot?
Wait… Arduino? i thought the main processor was a laptop?
Although the main processor is a laptop, we still needed something to actually control the motors, and while there are many choices, the most practical seemed to be to connect all of our motor controllers to an Arduino, and then connect the Arduino to the laptop or netbook via USB. It means that we can handle the math for the 3-wheeled omni-drive on the processor that directly controls it, possibly making it respond faster. This also adds another layer of flexibility if you have other ideas for a robot and don’t want to strap your laptop to a robot.