Reader, [Michael Rubenstein], sent in a project he’s been working on. Kilobot, as stated in the paper(pdf), overcomes the big problems with real world swarm robotics simulations; cost, experiment setup time, and maintenance. The robot can be communicated with wirelessly, charged in bulk, and mass programmed in under a minute. Typically, robots used for swarm research cost over a $100, so large scale experiments are left to software simulation. These, however, rarely include the real world physics, sensor error, and other modifying factors that only arise in a physical robot. Impressively enough, the kilobot comes in far under a hundred and still has many of the features of its costlier brothers. It can sense other robots, report its status, and has full differential steer (achieved, surprisingly, through bristle locomotion). There are a few cool videos of the robot in operation on the project site that are definitely worth a look.
[Underling] sent in his bristlebot project that aims to put a new spin on controlling bristlebot movement. We have seen several attempts at bristlebot directional control in the past, but none of these methods really fit what he wanted to do. His goal was to use a single brush rather than two, and be able to aim the bot in any direction at will.
He tried several different designs, but settled on what you see in the picture above. The large brush head is fitted with a vibrating motor on the front as well as a cell phone battery near the midsection. These pieces are placed in the center plane of the brush as to not influence the direction of movement. A separate servo-like motor is placed on the back of the brush, and each side of the motor’s arm is attached to a paddle that extends down the sides of the brush. When the motor is activated, one paddle is pressed in towards the bristles, while the other paddle is pulled away. This causes an immediate shift in direction, and should provide for a relatively tight turn radius. It should be noted that he also took the time to remove bristles from the center of the brush where the steering paddles are located in order to improve turning performance.
Unfortunately [Underling] does not currently have a video camera with which to show off his work, but we hope to see some action footage in the near future.
This large bristlebot has no prolem steering itself by shifting its weight. It’s easy enough to watch the video after the break and see how this works. But there’s still the same air of “I can’t believe that actually works” which we experienced with the original bristlebot.
This is not the first attempt to calm a bristlebots movements, but we don’t remember seeing one you could drive around like an RC car. [Glajten] up-sized the bot with what appears to be a small shop broom cut in half, creating a catamaran design. The vibrating motor, which might have come out of a gaming controller, rides on the back of the bot, centered between the two bristle platforms. On the front a servo motor holds the shaft of a long bolt which has extra weight at the end of it. Steering happens when the weight is offset by a turn of the servo.
[sprite_tm], whose projects we have covered in the past, took the popular bristlebot to an extreme and created a controllable version. A bristlebot consists of a small vibrating motor mounted with a battery on the head of a toothbrush. These micro-robots buzz around randomly, and he attempted to tame them. He used a platform of twin bristlebots and added an optical sensor from a laser mouse and an ATtiny13. The optical sensor is used to determine the relative motion of the robot, so that the motors can be adjusted accordingly. He also has a video of the bot using the sensor to find a mark on the floor and stay within bounds. Although it isn’t as accurate, it acts like a traditional line-following robot.
Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories is celebrating their second anniversary. They say they’re now 20 millicenturies old. To celebrate, they put together their greatest hits from the last year. We enjoyed their bristlebots, candyfabbing, and AVR business cards and hope to see their work for many more years to come.