Thanks to internet commerce opening up a global marketplace, it is now easier than ever for a budding roboticist to get started. There are so many robot kits available, across such a wide range of price and sophistication, that deciding which one to buy becomes a challenging project in itself. Is there room for another product in the crowded introductory robotics market? Sphero believes so, and they’ve launched RVR to explore not just workshops and classrooms, but also to see if they can find a market niche.
At the low end of this market, we can go online and buy a super simple chassis – two small wheeled gear motors and a chassis plate of laser-cut acrylic – for pizza money. At the high end, we have robots that cost as much as a car. Sphero’s RVR slots somewhere above Wonder Workshop’s Dash, but below LEGO’s Mindstrom EV3. Products in this range are expected to take care of low-level motion control details, so beginners won’t get bogged down by things like PID tuning before their robot can drive in a straight line. Sphero engineers are certainly capable of hiding such annoying details from beginners, with their experience in consumer robotics.
But a big selling point here is completely opposite from closed-box consumer electronics: RVR is built to be extensible. Not with proprietary accessories & add-on kits like many of its competitors, but with the components we know and love on Hackaday pages: Raspberry Pi, micro:bit, and whatever else willing to communicate with RVR via its UART port and powered by RVR’s on board five volt power supply. Proper care and feeding of a lithium-ion battery is also one of the beginner-unfriendly details taken care of. But RVR isn’t finalized – one of the reason Sphero stated for launching via Kickstarter is to get customer feedback. Certainly the funding goal of $150,000 (easily met in a few hours) was unlikely to be the most important part for a company of Sphero’s size.
We hope RVR will help introduce a new audience to building their own robots. When they’re ready to grow beyond Sphero’s kit, Hackaday is happy to help show the way. If you have a 3D printer, there’s never been a better time to build your own robot. (Zerobot is on one editor’s to-do list.) Those fascinated by electronics can peek under the covers of low-level motor control, and there’s always room to explore high level machine vision and neural networks.
Whatever it takes to get you started, just get started!
Continue reading “Sphero RVR’s Quest For A Niche In Introductory Robotics”
Despite quite a few articles stating Sphero was behind the technology that made the real movie BB-8 droid, like this Tech Crunch article:
Sphero, makers of the eponymous spherical robots that you control with your smartphone — as well as the new BB-8 droid in Star Wars: The Force Awakens…
and this excerpt from Fortune Magazine:
The same underlying technology (made by Sphero), which was licensed to create the version of BB-8 that graced the stage at the Star Wars Celebration…
Heck, even we drank the jungle juice with our original coverage! But now it seems the truth is finally coming out. As it turns out, it was actually built in Pinewood by the Creature Animatronics (CFX) team which includes [Matt Denton] — He’s the guy who built the Mantis Robot. A hacker / engineer — not a big toy company.
Two articles released this week on StarWars.com and EmpireOnline.com name various people from the CFX team at Pinewood as having built the movie puppets and the real BB-8. No mention of Sphero at all of course. They also state that they had to come up with the technology from scratch and that nothing like it already existed.
Continue reading “Sphero Wasn’t Actually Behind the BB-8”
[Theo Jansen] makes awesome things called Strandbeests; wind-driven automatons that roam beaches and art galleries. It has long been one of our favorite mechanisms. Newer, but also a favorite is the Sphero smartphone controlled orb. The combination of the two is epic!
You may remember seeing Sphero used to create a tiny BB8 replica. Inside the orb is a tiny robot capable of rolling itself hamster-wheel-style in any direction. It’s a rather powerful bot and that makes Sphero fast. The high RPM is what makes this hack possible. Sphero spins rapidly while perched on some rollerblade wheels. Gearing converts this to the rolling motion of the Strandbeest.
The original concept was posted a year ago but it was just now brought to our attention by [fhareide] who is working on his own smaller Strandbeest driven by a Sphero. Since there are no assembly details on the original posting, you can follow along with [fhareide’s] documentation in order to complete your own build. So far [fhareide] imported the STL model into Autodesk Inventor, printed out one set of gears to insure the printer resolution could handle it, and assembled one set of legs.
We think of this as a kind of exoskeleton for a Sphero. We’ll keep an eye on this through the assembly, testing the drive mechanism and then the point where the whole thing becomes self-aware and either runs away to hide or terminates him.
Continue reading “Sphero Riding Strandbeest Is A Robot With An Exoskeleton”
Hot on the heels of discovery that the BB-8 Droid from the new Star Wars movie is real, [Christian Poulsen] has made the very own miniature version of it!
It’s a brilliantly simple hack actually. Remember the Sphero? It’s a remote controlled ball you can drive around with your phone — great fun, but surprisingly not many people have hacked it…
The ball has an internal structure that allows it to roll around with ease. Which also means it has a fixed up direction — at least inside of the ball. All [Christian] had to do was crack it open and throw a magnet on the top of the inner-assembly. He then machined the droid’s head out of foam with another magnet (or metal, we’re not too sure) and boom-bada-bing it stays in place as the ball rolls.
Stick around after the break to see some GIFs of it adorably rolling around — and into things.
Continue reading “Mini BB-8 Droid Made from a Sphero”
A Remote Sphero-Control Trackball
Sphero is a cool little ball that can roll around under the control of a smartphone. Although super-cool by itself, in this application it’s been hacked into a sort of trackball to drive a remote control car!
Arduino Voice Control
[Sebastian] Wrote in to tell us about this article about using the Arduino EasyVR shield to add voice control to your project. Worth a look if it your application calls for voice-control.
OpenBeam Tiny 80/20-Like Extrusion
Openbeam is a Kickstarter project designed to produce an aluminium extrusion for building stuff. Although we’ve seen lots of this kind of thing, the small 15mm profile is quite interesting, and it’s designed to use off-the-shelf hardware, which should save on costs!
Hexapod + iPad = Fun for All
There’s not a lot of information on this hack, and the price or this hexapod device isn’t even listed, so we’ll assume it’s quite expensive. On the other hand, it’s got a cool video of it being controlled by an iPad, so maybe it will give you some hacking inspiration!
USB Sound Card Write-Up
[George] wrote in to tell us about his USB sound card write-up. Before you think that this is a dupe of this post, he freely admits to building it nearly identically to the one previously posted. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but [George] is also requesting some feedback on his blog and the aforementioned post. feel free to let him know what you think in the comments. Please be polite!