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A Tiny Robot Family

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Back in the late 80s and early 90s, a lot of young electronics hobbyists cut their teeth with BEAM robots – small robots made with logic chips and recycled walkmans that tore a page from papers on neural nets and the AI renaissance of the 80s. Twenty years later, a second AI renaissance never happened because a generation of genius programmers decided the best use of their mental faculties was to sell ads on the Internet. We got the Arduino, though, and the tiny robot family is a more than sufficient spiritual successor to the digital life of the old BEAM bots.

The tiny robot family is [shlonkin]‘s growing collection of small autonomous vehicles that perceive the world with sensors and act with different behaviors. They all contain an ATtiny85, a small battery, two motors, and at least one phototransistor and a LED. One robot has left and right eyes pointing down, and can act as a line follower. Another has a group of LEDs around its body, allowing it to signal other bots in all directions. The goal of the project is to create a whole series of these tiny robots capable of interacting with the environment and each other. Video of the line follower below.

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Steerable bristlebot via IR control

Looking at the size of this bristlebot the first thing we wondered is where’s the battery? All we know is that it’s a rechargeable NiMH and it must be hiding under that tiny circuit board. But [Naghi Sotoudeh] didn’t just build a mindless device that jiggles its way across a table. This vibrating robot is controllable with an infrared remote control. It uses an ATtiny45 microcontroller to monitor an IR receiver for user input. An RC5 compatible television remote control lets you send commands, driving the tiny form factor in more ways than we thought possible. Check out the video after the break to see how well the two vibrating motors work at propelling the device. They’re driven using a PWM signal with makes for better control, but it doesn’t look like there’s any protection circuitry which raises concern for the longevity of the uC.

This build was featured in a larger post over at Hizook which details the history of vibrating robots. It’s not technically a bristlebot since it doesn’t ride on top of a brush, but the concept is the same. You could give your miniature fabrication skills a try in order to replicate this, or you can build a much larger version that is also steerable.

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