How about an open source robotics platform?

Like Linux, but for the robotics world. Volunteer engineers/programmers can create software that controls the robot's movements/AI/actions, etc..
And this software can be customizable to the owner's desires/specs. A person could thereotically then buy some sheetmetal, some electric motors, rechargeable batteries, gears, wheels, etc. from Radio Shack and build their robot. The brains of the robot can simply be a $50 Biostar motherboard/a hard drive/RAM, etc. (essentially simply a CISC PC that could also be used as a PC by the robot's owner). The controller that switches on/off the robot's various motors can simply be a PCI card in one of the mobo's slots. The robotics software can then control the motors/gears/arms, etc. via this PCI controller card. What would make it non-proprietory and open source is that a person, when building their robot, can specify what electric motors they're using by changing values int he software, so the software can accurately make the robot go a certain speed/distance. It'd be a great learning tool. Students studying various disciplines could come together and build a robot -- metal shop students can show the engineering students how to bend/weld the metal to form the body. And the engineering students can teach the trades students about programming and electronics. The robots can be outfitted with almost an endless array of attachments -- a vacuum cleaner, a security patrol robot, can be an MP3 player by the pool and fetch your towel, a communications device for the family, etc..
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Lego Mindstorms satifies many open-source aspects. The Hitachi uC of the RCX "brain" has been hacked and there have been several alternative operating systems and programming languages and environments developed by the open-source community. There are quite a few excellent books available ( do a search on Amazon.com ).
There has been some highly complex and technically advanced systems built using the Mindstorms systems.
Construction of projects is not limited to the Lego plastic parts. The sensors and ( excellent ) motors can be incorporated with other microcontrollers and systems.
Please feel free to check out my Lego Mindstorms links on my website:
http://www.users.tpg.com.au/daleste/index.htm

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Justin wrote:

[snip]
You might be interested in the Open Automaton Project (http://oap.sourceforge.net ).
Chris
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