The best Hobbiest robot, What is it?

Hi,
I am looking for the best hobbiest robot to buy. Many come close, many have one desired feature, and another a different one but none that I have seen
has the complete package. It seems like no one has "nailed it" yet, just bits and pieces. That is unless there is one that I have missed. I have looked at those doggy robots which has voice recognition but they have no speech, I have looked at old HERO robots which have speech but they have no voice recognition.
There are some things listed below that it must have. Is there anything out like it?
Speech Voice recognition user programmability temperature sensor light sensor distance sensor (sonar) Infrared sensor real time clock good mobility expandability
Things that would be nice:
Arm Humidity sensor Atmospheric pressure sensor camera for vision or stereo camera for vision with depth stereo sound sensor (for direction) infrared output (control TVs etc) X10 type module interface to control appliances etc.
Does anyone know of a robot or kit that has these features?
Thanks
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Dave,
That's a LOT from one robot. Asking for it to also be a kit is asking too much I think. What would you be willing to pay for such a beast? I'm guessing it would cost something like $2000 to $3000 if it included a complete assembly and programming guides, and that really makes it impossible for anyone to produce since the market is just too small.
--
- Alan Kilian <kilian(at)timelogic.com>

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The best hobbyist robot is the one YOU build to incorporate all these features....
Mike

have
no
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I have to agree with blueeyedpop on this. No one makes a hobbyist robot with all these features as it costs too much, and all the "hobbysts would choke gag and puke on seeing the price. You would have to spend $2,000+ on it yourself, and build one up. What does come pretty close though is the robot "Garcia" at http://www.acroname.com. Garcia uses a 400mhz intel XScale (Arm core) processor. But I betcha you are going to 'choke, gag, and puke", unless your really serious about it. But it would do what you want off of your wish list. The next closest one is the ER1 from Evolution Robotics http://www.evolution.com/er1 / (Amazon.com product link shortened) The ER1 in the basic kit model selles for around $300, but you still need to hook up a laptop too it, so that would add about $1,000 or so to the total cost, as the laptop can'tbe a really old or el cheapo model. The laptop needs some cpu power to it. But it would do what you want off your wish list.
happy holidays, Earl

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Oops, I forgot to mention the http://www.evolution.com/products/ersp/scorpion.masn Scorpion Robot. That is a a lot closer to what I consider a great robot.

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Looks great, but I wonder how many will be suckered by the $5K price tag for the first, then $7.5K for subsequent robots. Odd pricing policy..
Deep.
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On Tue, Dec 21, 2004 at 05:55:46PM +0000, Deep Reset wrote:

Very odd indeed, I was just going to comment on that. That's either a typo, or we must not be getting something that's obvious to everyone else :-)
But speaking of laptops, Wallmart and Linspire have teamed up to offer a $500 no frills laptop based on Linux as opposed to Windows. Something like that might work with the $300 ER1 and you might be able to get a pretty decent platform running for around $800. The must more expensive ER "Scorpion" at least seems to support other OSs besides Windows - not sure about the software that comes with the ER1.
http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.gsp?product_id504708&cat 9113&type&dept944
-Brian -- Brian Dean BDMICRO - ATmega128 Based MAVRIC Controllers http://www.bdmicro.com/
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Yeah I sorta wondered about the prices too. The Walmart "Balance" brand low end laptop looks pretty good. Earlier (here in this group) it was discovered that Balance may have been misrepresenting what the CPU was inside the laptops. They had rigged the BIOS to report a different and faster CPU than they had really put in the low end laptops. I would wonder if they had fixed that or not. In my opinion, if they lied about the CPU what else did they lie about as well. Wal-Mart was supposed to changed their advertising and offer amends to earlier buyers though. But I didn't here if they in facthad done it or not. Now the Via CPU in the $500 Balance laptop is pretty nice, it isn't as powerful as a AMD Athlon, but it doesn't suck up as much power nor generate as much heat. So hopefully the battery would have some decent life to it (albeit a 14" LCD sucks all the extra power anyway).
The ER1's have a lot of their code written in Java and they develop it first on a Linux machine of some sort and then port it over to Windows. So a ER1 owner should be able to get the code for Linux easy enough. The real trick is finding out what version GCC and or Java compiler you would need to be successful.
A better choice may be to use a Via Mini-ITX or Nano-ITX board instead of a laptop on the ER1. less than $200 bucks for one of those boards, then you can add the HD, and stuff as needed. http://www.via.com.tw/en/initiatives/spearhead/mini-itx / or maybe something like this http://www.commell.com.tw/Product/SBC/LV-671.HTM I bought one last year from here http://store.ituner.com/ituner/viamo.html and I really like it a lot. I also got the 12vdc DC-DC converter for it as well. If you lick up a small LCD monitor panel that can run off of a 12vdc battery (many do), you can run the whole thing off a 12v battery easy enough.

http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.gsp?product_id504708&cat 9113&type&dept944
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Earl Bollinger wrote:

A mini-itx is a viable choice, but good luck finding a nano-itx. VIA's been promising it's release "real soon now" for almost two years. If you don't want to wait indefinitely, there are some alternatives such as the flex form factor (between mini and nano), PC-104 form factor, or the gumstix (gumstix.com).
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Yeah, I still have a lot of hope they'd release the nano-ITX's one of these days. I've been waiting to get one for forever it seems.

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If you had looked a bit 'deeper' (actually, the next line down...) you would've found this tell tale line:
"The Scorpion is sold only in conjunction with an ERSP purchase."
The ERSP is an SDK for application development.
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Earl Bollinger wrote:

many
have
yet,
I
have
they
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Yeah I choked, gagged, and almost puked at the price of the Garcia, and it didn't look to even have voice recognition.. It seems too overpriced for what you get. I mean you can get an AIBO for less than that and it has more technology behind it.
The ER1 seems kind of hoaky to me. A laptop on wheels? Maybe it is just me but it looks kind of dumb. I want something that looks "roboty". again like the HERO series. It also seems real inefficient to have a laptop running with a harddrive etc, uses too much battery power just to have it on.

just
have
no
have
anything
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Well the prices are actually pretty reasonable. But most people think they should be like $49.95 for everything ready to go. Sticker shock is a horrible thing. Unfortunately when you add up the cost of all the parts, it goes way over the price a layperson might expect. Just the drive motors with quadrature encoders can easily go way over $400 by themselves. The Garcia is easy to expand, voice recognition is easy to add to it.

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Well no I don't think it should be super cheap but it did seem a bit much to me. I guess it is probably just because it is a small niche market. If they sold as many as they do Xboxes or PS2s I guess they would be much less.
I am still looking at options. I am a noob, and nothing has struck me as "the one" yet.

many
have
have
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Well thanks,
Unfortunately though, I am not an electrical engineer or a software engineer.
My ideal robot would be like an updated version of the old HERO 2000. Imagine that one with an updated CPU like an 200 MHz ARM or similar. Instead of disk or hard drives it would use a compact flash card. It would be expandable but I wouldn't need an EE degree to do it. You could just add a board.

seen
just
have
no
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anything
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You do realize the Hero2000 cost a lot of money way back then. In today's money it would be around $7,000 to $10,000 dollars to buy it. You don't have to be a genius or have a degree in computer science or engineering to build one yourself. The best robots so far are the ones built by the hobbysts who don't have degrees. Go check out www.dprg.org in the photos section http://www.dprg.org/gallery/rr2003b/index.html One of our guys did a great job building up his "Beerbot" which is very very close to being a Hero2000 itself. it sorta looks like a R2D2 unit, but it is pretty cool nonetheless. He had the help of a number of DPRG members to solve some of the more sticky problems. He actually entered it in the Roborama contests, it did an excellent Quick Trip run, and Tee Time run too, the PID was working great.

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Maybe I should just scour the 'net for an old Hero2000 to buy? Do you think that would be a good idea? I think I know of one I could get for around $2000. It seems like the perfect platform and it has an arm. While the CPU is a bit dated, boards can be added to do other things. I wonder how hard it would be to hack a new brain into the bus of that robot? The main older CPU would then just become a controller for the new brain on the card.
As far as the other ones that I have seen, many of the affordable ones seem to be simple line tracers and wall followers. I would like to add in much more functionality but I could not even begin to create such a complex firmware. I am a machine designer with much experience in 3D CAD so I could design the body. I also have made many things using industrial laser equipment to cut out sheet metal parts. So mechanically I am ok. It is the software portion and electronics that I am lacking. I can solder all day and night but to come up with the right circuitry and software to add a feature like voice rec is well beyond my scope.
The number one thing on my list that my bot MUST have is simple voice command input ability, and speech output.
What to do.

very
of
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Well buying a Hero 2000 may be tough, they are something of a nostalgia thing and a lot of people will fight you for it. I would suggest looking to see if there is a robotics club in your area. get with them and simpy build your own. You get to learn a lot, engineer some, design some, and have a lot of fun building it. When you are ready, voice recognition hardware isn't all that difficult, but the software can be a bear. What you use depends on the MCU and or CPU you ultimately use, and your hardware. Probably the most practical approach is to use a MCU to control the lower level functions like motor control and object sensors and things. Then use something like a VIA mini-ITX running Windows or Linux to do the higher level functions. Then voice control is using the software on the main board which would be a lot easier, as a lot of it is (more or less) off the shelf at that point.

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On Wed, Dec 22, 2004 at 10:06:37PM -0600, Earl Bollinger wrote:

I agree with Earl, Dave. I know you said you are neither a software nor hardware engineer. But you don't really have to be either to jump in and build a unique robot to your specifications and capabilities. Enough of the process has been "commodity'ized" that you don't have to build everything from scratch. But as you have already discovered, while there are numerous complete robots that are available for purchase, they can carry somewhat of a sticker shock. But not necessarily unjustifiably so.
Case in point - I had my rover at a Hamfest not too long ago and a gentleman approached me wanting to buy it:
http://www.bdmicro.com/rover
I mumbled something about it not being for sale but the fellow was quite adament that he was leaving with that robot and how much did I want for it. I hadn't really considered selling it so I didn't really even have a price worked out but I did a quick calculation in my head of just the parts alone that I could remember, added about 50% to cover any that I forgot, and tossed that number out. The fellow was not quite so adament any more :-) I think he was looking to spend around $200, but that would not even cover 3 of the 4 motors, let alone the motor drivers, electronics, radios, joystick controller, wheels, custom machined hubs, dome, extruded aluminum, PVC, batteries, wire, connectors, switches, etc, etc. Add it all up and this little guy is over $1000, not even counting construction time.
Were this robot for sale commercially, it would be a lot more than that. Liability insurance alone would probably be through the roof.
Even at the very low end, it's really hard to do much for under $100, once you purchase controller, motors, motor drivers, sensors, and chassis. You should probably expect to have at least $300 in a basic robot, assuming buying parts new. E-bay and surplus houses can help to lower that, but as always, buyer beware - sometimes it's marked down for a reason.
As you saw, complete commercial platforms start at around $1000 and go up from there. By complete, I mean flip on power and it's ready to go, everything included, not just chassis + motors.
There are a number of semi-kits out there, though. These are typically a chassis + motors and sometimes motor drivers. Examples include the kits from Budget Robotics:
http://www.budgetrobotics.com
Also take a look at Rogue Robotics:
http://www.roguerobotics.com
Their "ATR" base looks pretty intersting. While I don't have any direct experience with the Rogue Robotics kits, I have purchased a few of Gordon's kits at BudgetRobotics and they are superb. Typically they come with R/C servos for motors + motor-drivers and you add the controller and any sensors and anything else you want.
Building entirely from scratch can be challenging, especially if you've never done it before. I'd recommend starting with at least a semi-kit (base + motors) as that will solve many of the mechanical problems right out of the gate. It sounds like you are wanting voice recognition which I'm not too familiar with with, but that sounds like it might imply a PC for running the recognition software, so your main challenge is selecting a semi-kit base that you can purchase that is large enough to carry a PC motherboard like a mini-itx, enough battery power to run it for an hour or so in addition to having enough juice to move around and act like a robot. Like Earl suggested, PC's make horrible motor controllers, so plan for a "microcontroller" for the low-level controls such as controlling the motors, reading sensors like bump sensors, ultrasonic and infrared obstacle sensors, etc.
Of course, if you can find a Hero 2000 that is in reasonable condition at a yard sale or something where the current owner doesn't know its real value, that'd be pretty sweet :-)
Something else you might take a look at is the White Box Robotics "PC on wheels" platform:
http://www.whiteboxrobotics.com/
These have supposed to have been available now for like a year or something but I still don't see a price or a place to order. They look nice, though. They kind've remind me of Huey, Dewey, and Louie from Silent Running :-)
-Brian
--
Brian Dean
BDMICRO - ATmega128 Based MAVRIC Controllers
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