Quick robotic base for netbook


This is a great example of how marketing should be done. TeleToyland and RoboRealm(currently down) have teamed up together to show you how to build a quick and easy robot base for your netbook. The build process is fairly in depth, including part numbers and links to various places to buy them. They are using RoboRealm software to control the robot, utilizing two web cams for sensory input.  This should get you well on your way to having an autonomous netbook wandering around your house.


  1. epicelite says:

    oh lawld. xkcd did it first!

  2. elliott says:

    this is a really cool idea, but i think it needs some more batteries…

  3. charlie says:

    i just don’t trust my computer enough to give it wheels. god knows what kind of trouble it would get itself in.

  4. Mike says:

    Normally I don’t say this but…. why? Honestly, it’s cool and all, but whats the point?

  5. andrew says:

    @mike: i agree. and besides, if all it is going to do is drive around and avoid obstacles, there are much better ways to do it than with a full-blown pc.

  6. Franklyn says:

    holy crap … that is one VERY expensive BOM and thats EXCLUDING the netbook ..

  7. nubie says:

    @ Franklyn:

    Just take it as a guide, I would get wheels and motors at Harbor Freight and the Junkyard respectively (Windshield wiper motors), get used cordless tool batteries and “revive” the dead cells with a welder.

    It will be cool to see one of these that is really hacked, maybe running a <$5 Atmega chip for brains.

  8. herbicide says:

    That /is/ the point.

    It’s like climbing Mt Everest or going to the moon – ‘because it’s there’ is all the justification you really need.

  9. dustin says:

    That /is/ the point.

    It’s like climbing Mt Everest or going to the moon – ‘because it’s there’ is all the justification you really need.

    which is why we hack/mod in the first place, its why i ran linux on my ipod, its why i modded my psp to play all the games from my childhood, its why i read hack a day. there is usually no real reason to the things we do… we just do it because we can (:

  10. Morden says:


    Yes we “can” do it with expensive and horrible implementation.


    We “could” do it with cheap and efficient implementation that actually hacks up a result.

    This isn’t everest, this isn’t horribly difficult, this could be vastly improved.

  11. fartface says:

    Bah. why use a netbook. slap a $29.00 WRT54G router in there and do it that way. better, faster, cheaper, and uses a crapload less lower.

  12. ula says:

    what fartface said

  13. Tom says:

    The WRT54 would work to control the robot, but the goal here I think was to enable Roborealm vision, and have all components on-board the robot working fully autonomously. This requires a minimum Windows 2000/XP (I think 98SE might work) type system and currently the netbook is one of the more simple low cost x86 Windows capable devices for this type of application and is what I think the author was going for.

    However for someone who just wants to implement and start working with real world robot vision this is a very difficult, costly and limiting platform to do it with. A much better approach would be to simply place a Netbook on a Roomba.

    This gives you multiple advantages;
    – You don’t have to build anything, not even solder if you don’t want to. (however if your an electronics wiz there is plenty that you can do)

    – Motor control: encoders, over current protection, sturdy dependable gear boxes.

    – Sensors: There are like 58 different ones to play with.

    – Control: simple well documented. Uses a simple serial interface.

    – Power: self docking charging station, no batteries to buy, continue coding and working on your system, remote into the robot while its docked.

    – Costs: Cheap!: (in the context of the initial article) Netbook $150~200+ for something like the MSI/Asus + Roomba $200 + Serial Cable 5V $25.00

    With that setup you get a cheap dependable robot platform with room to expand on. You can also focus on the area you want to work with, software and programming, mechanical design (add and arm etc), or electronics by adding and expanding sensors and systems. As well as have a far better platform for using Roborealm with to develop and work with robotic vision control.

  14. Morden says:


    I stopped reading at “requires windows”

  15. andrew says:

    @morden: me too :)

  16. Tom says:

    Sorry that you stopped reading the post @windows, let me apologize, I forgot this was hackaday and not targeted at typical instructables.com type.

    Edit: you can load linux on the system and then run roborealm, its’ the image processing that needs the power of something greater than a WRT54. You then can then also run all the opensource image and object tracking software like openCV and start really learning robot vision control and processing.

    Your missing the point if your hung up on it running windows, the platform or target of the article is not which OS it is running, but to do advanced image processing on-board a mobile robot. Running linux can be a hurdle for some people, likely not most reading this on hackaday, however over where this article is originally posted is instructables………

  17. Morden says:


    If they are trying to run with that much vision processing then I would personally tell them to run wireless and/or have a remote laptop with higher capabilities then an e-book. More so with this “windows” you speak of.


  18. Tom says:

    Hey morden,

    That is exactly how this was normally done before, if you wanted a small mobile robot with vision capabilities.

    What is exciting is that now we have these “netbook” sized well priced machines that let us go fully autonomous with our smaller robots!

    But definitely you can throw a wireless cam on the robot and then run a billion petaflops of power at the image processing side of things…

    Personally i’m setting up a roomba with an asus eee pc with linux and a simple webcam running a basic webserver. That way I can remote into the robot take over its brain and check on my cat. When the robot is not under my control then it’s free to use image recognition to chase things around the house, ie: the cat.

  19. Shadyman says:

    @tom (11:45am 13-Dec-2008):
    Did you name your robot “ALF”?

  20. mike_2.0 says:


    I like the cut of your jib.

    for me the idea of a cheap autonomous robot with image recognition and web interface is a pretty one, perhaps build a security droid with facial recognition an hydraulic axe and an old dvd burner for improvised “death ray” and i’d be laughing. I could even build 2 and host my very own online robot wars….. mmmmm time for a shopping list me thinks..

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