bots IN BRIEF
THYMIO A GREAT BUYMIO
How much robot can you get for a hundred bucks? Not much, if
you consider what commercial robotic vacuums go for. However, you
could spend it on an open source education robot from Switzerland
that will help your kids to learn how to do things besides not
vacuuming the floor.
The Thymio II comes from those robot geniuses at EPFL Lausanne
in Switzerland. It's an educational robot designed from the ground up to
be easy and fun to mess with for people with very limited (or no)
previous experience in robotics. It's also designed from the ground up
to be cheap, at just about $100 USD. How is this possible, you ask?
Apparently, there's pretty much no profit margin or distribution cost,
and all you're paying for is the hardware and for some people to put it together for you into a working robot. Not too shabby.
• Capacitive touch buttons.
• Color of the body (full RGB spectrum).
• LED associated with each robot function.
Yes, there's a trailer hook, so you can stop
worrying about that, and those "mechanic
fixation" points are LEGO compatible.
To program Thymio II, you can use a nifty
graphical interface, or a simple programming
language called Aseba that's similar to Matlab.
Actually, $100 seems very cheap for a
platform like this — cheap enough that a $1,000
grant could outfit an entire classroom with
robots that are colorful, versatile, fun, and can
be tackled with a GUI before graduating to
writing code. There's lots more info along with
examples of what Thymio II can do at
iROBOT IN MINT CONDITION
iRobot has just announced its acquisition of Evolution Robotics
— maker of the Mint swifferbots — for $74 million in cash.
If you're not familiar with Mint, it's a robot that sweeps or mops
using Swiffer pads. It's not a vacuum, and it only works on hard floors.
It's quiet, though, and cheap at just $200 for the base model. It uses a
beacon system to localize itself, meaning that it can sweep in straight
lines instead of in a pseudo-random motion like the Roomba.
Whether or not straight lines are better for cleaning robots is
debatable, but localization has the potential to enable all kinds of
clever new robots. This seems to be a big part of why iRobot made
the buy, since Evolution also has patents on an image-based
localization and mapping system called vSLAM that would be
appropriate for small mobile consumer robots.
24 SERVO 11.2012