www.FirstAct.com) take care of the standards issues,
allowing you to focus on appearance and geometry. The
universe of possible components isn’t available to you,
but the component selection is generally rich enough to
create a custom guitar suitable for any budget. As a
result, with a click of the mouse and credit transaction a
custom guitar can be at your doorstep in a matter of
weeks. No need to fully equip a woodworking shop or
learn how to wire your own pickup coils, and (given the
skill) you can play music written for any other electric.
So, if mass customization can work for other
industries, why has it been slow to take off in robotics?
One factor is the lack of a deep-pocketed Dell or Apple in
the world of robotics. A few hardware platforms have
been widely accepted by the enthusiast community — the
Parallax BoeBot comes to mind. However, most robot
models sell in the hundreds unless they make it to the
The underlying issue is, of course, the lack of an
industry standard robot configuration (akin to the PC) or
a proprietary design with a devoted following (akin to the
Apple Mac). Certainly, standards have been advanced to
assist in the development of reusable robot software
components (such as the Microsoft Robotics Studio) and
several vendors offer platforms ready to be populated
with components. But there are no real robotics
standards from a body large enough to enjoin the entire
consumer robotics industry, such as the IEEE.
So, what can we do, as mere enthusiasts, to nudge
mass customization of robotics along? Do what
developers in other industries do: Identify best of breed
and then integrate them into a good product line. The
first hurdle is, of course, defining “best,” given each
component manufacturer has a stake in declaring their
product as such.
Take a moment and imagine what you’d do, given
unlimited access to commercial robotic components and
systems. What’s the best platform out there for small
service robots? Medium sized? What are the best (i.e.,
most affordable, easily programmed, compatible, etc.)
controllers? Sensors? Motors?
As a first step in developing industry recognized
standards, a consortia of companies and developers could
interface the best out there and then provide options to
suit different classes of users. If you or your
group/company is up for the challenge — or currently
engaged in the challenge — then please drop me a line.
It’s time to connect like-minded developers. SV
STEER WINNING ROBOTS
Perform proportional speed, direction, and steering with
only two Radio/Control channels for vehicles using two
separate brush-type electric motors mounted right and left
with our mixing RDFR dual speed control. Used in many
successful competitive robots. Single joystick operation: up
goes straight ahead, down is reverse. Pure right or left twirls
vehicle as motors turn opposite directions. In between stick
positions completely proportional. Plugs in like a servo to
your Futaba, JR, Hitec, or similar radio. Compatible with gyro
steering stabilization. Various volt and amp sizes available.
The RDFR47E 55V 75A per motor unit pictured above.
SERVO 12.2008 7