An Inexpensive Prototype Platform
for General-Purpose Household
Robotics or Telepresence
By Alan Federman
Like most people my age, I grew up
watching the Jetson’s on TV (back
when portable TVs took only two guys
to move!). I have given up on the
flying car, but I at least expected a
Rosie by now. When I got my first
‘personal’ computer back in 1980,
my sister wrote me a letter that said
“Wow, personal computers, can
personal robots be far behind?” Well,
it has been 30 years and it’s about
time. Since they aren’t available at a
reasonable cost just yet, we’ll have to
build our own. I’m going to show you
how I did it.
FIGURE 1. GoPHR mark2 shown as a telerobot
with various attachments.
Seriously, this project came about after I agreed to be a substitute speaker at a meeting of the Homebrew Robotics Club two years ago. The talk was about
building practical robotics platforms. The problem, as I see
it, is that building a platform that can do something useful
is a major hurdle for the beginner. While platforms like the
Boebot, iRobot Create, and LEGO NXT are great entry level
introductions in my opinion, they are too underpowered to
perform the simplest household task; for instance, move a
‘Shark’ type cordless sweeper across the room. I also have a
problem with buying one robot to sweep the floor and a
second robot to mop it since 95% of the robot platform
would be the same. I’d like something that would be easy
to repurpose — something like the ‘snap-in’ tools concept.
This led to the GoPHR concept.
42 SERVO 11.2010
GoPHR stands for General-Purpose Household Robot.
The idea is to develop an open source hardware platform
capable of performing useful household tasks and be
expandable in both the hardware, controllers, and software.
Just like DARPA pushed the art of robotic cars, the art of
domestic robotics could be spurred by staging challenges.
• Level 1: Sweep the floor, return to charging station.
• Level 2: Pick up the smelly sneaker, return it to the
proper place, then sweep the floor.
• Level 3: Be able to open cabinets and doors while
• Level 4: Be robust enough to venture outside and
fetch the newspaper.