200 pound, WiFi deploying robot ran over my foot

[Adam Bercu] and [Dan Landers] from Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, MA brought a very, very cool toy to Maker Faire this year. It’s a two hundred pound WiFi repeater deploying robot able to amble across unforgiving terrain and my foot.

The robot is controlled through a web interface with the help of a front-mounted web cam with pan and tilt controls. All the signals are sent through a WiFi connection to a node.js web server; not the best way to communicate with a robot over long distances, but [Adam] and [Dan] have a few tricks up their sleeve.

On the back of the robot are two Pelican cases loaded up with a battery and a Linksys WRT54G wireless router. When the robot reaches the limits of its range, it activates a solenoid, dropping a WiFi repeater. This repeater has enough battery juice to stay powered for about a day and a half, meaning the robot can make multiple trips to deploy a wireless network through some very hostile terrain. Perfect for disaster and search and rescue operations.

There are two videos after the break: the first is [Dan] going over the capabilities of his tank bot and the second is a short demo of the bot tearing up the grass at Maker Faire.

Comments

  1. rir says:

    So how well does it run over feets?

  2. escott says:

    This was pretty much the specs verbatim for a Darpa call about ’07-’08, wasn’t it? Nicely done.

  3. Polymath says:

    Needs a flood zone adapter. Maybe foam attachments or inflatable bladders, sort of like water wings or “swimmies” that kids use. One of the first priorities of hurricane response is reestablishing communications. Often roads, culverts, and the lower floors of buildings are flooded. Mobile cellular towers are trailerable but are the size of VW bugs and twice as heavy.

    This thing could operate from the back of a search and rescue vehicle, amphibious or otherwise, and build fairly respectable forward operating wifi net. Might even work better with wireless mesh.

  4. Kaj says:

    This is a really cool idea, considering the tethering issues discussed by the anonymous engineer’s diary of the fukushima plant robotics team.

  5. psychicpsquirrel says:

    It may be a great design for a battle bot. But I can think of endless circumstances where the low slung design is going to get hung up on rocks, and on soft or uneven ground. Climbing stairs isn’t the same as climbing over rubble. Though it will probably work great in an urban environment.

    For a real all terrain design you’d be better off using a rocker-bogie design like the mars rovers. Even an rc rock crawler will go places this won’t.

  6. glench says:

    For more specs on the robot, the official site.

  7. Chris C. says:

    It sure looks like it’s ready to go into a war zone! Hope Brian’s foot wasn’t a casualty…

    Polymath’s flood zone adapter is a cool idea.

    A Zippermast (or Fontana mast if you’re ancient) would be a useful add-on too, allowing the antenna to be raised high into the air. Find a video if you haven’t seen it, it’s really cool. But at $11k too pricey for a hobby ‘bot, unless someone manages to hack one together at home.

    Two independently rotatable directional antennas might be useful in certain situations as well.

  8. Terry says:

    “Perfect for disaster or search and rescue operations”. Can someone describe a disaster or search and rescue scenario where someone would say “If we only had a robot capable of deploying wifi”.

    • Braden says:

      Clearly, you have never seen the film “Volcano”.

    • Polymath says:

      When was the last time you worked in an Emergency Operations Center during a hurricane?

    • Isotope says:

      As a former emergency responder, I can think of no scenario where deploying a wireless network like this would be useful. Certainly a nice build, but for “disaster or search and rescue”? No.

      But I don’t think that’s the point here. I think the idea is to extend a robot’s wireless range – a robot which would have other uses in an IDLH environment where search and rescue operations were taking place.

      • Terry says:

        The vehicle is cool. Pooping wifi repeaters is cool. I like the project, but I’m convinced this isn’t a good match for search and rescue.

        There aren’t many situations where you can’t walk 400 yards away to drop a pelican case. Chances are, if you can’t walk it this thing would also be useless getting there. Not sure I’d send one of these out in a hurricane to drop a lightweight case like people are suggesting.

        Regardless of the write-up on HaD, this is a neat project.

    • Hirudinea says:

      If it pooped cell phone repeaters it would be more useful.

  9. Edgarvice says:

    you should program the robot to stumble through your neighbourhood and let it hack & sniff their wifi networks

  10. wardy says:

    It requires a nerf gun and a webcam.

  11. NotImpressed says:

    At least you didn’t have a car run over the very tip of your shoe. Luckily it only hurt a lot and no real damage was done.

  12. Polymath says:

    I should clarify. Because more and more mobile devices are using WiFi as an optional aternative to cellular comms dropping wireless routers to create a bread crumb trail is fairly clever. Some one trapped might not have a cellular signal but if their phone or ever their car can tap into the net work this thing leaves behind then they can call for help. Pairing it with throwable UAV’s that can “perch” to act as more WiFi repeaters would further augment its capabilities.

  13. adi says:

    Is the purpose of the robot simply to deploy wifi in hostile terrain? If so, why not a wifi repeater dropping quadcopter? Or a wifi repeater mortar/cannon?

  14. I’m mostly interested in the treads, self made or bought? Anyone happen to have some good links on tread building,I’d like to add them to a rover that is capable of moving a human (up to 350lbs) around.

    Humbly,
    Roo
    ramos96 @ yahoo dot com

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