Turn Your Smartphone into a Robot
by Leslie Meredith, TechNewsDaily Senior Writer
October 11 2011 06:28 PM ET
Two young engineers have dumped their jobs to pursue their childhood dream of building robots. And these aren’t the six-figure models coming out of Silicon Valley. One of these robots, which uses your own smartphone as its brains, could be purchased with a month or two of your saved-up allowance.
"Romo," which combines an owner’s iPhone or Android smartphone with a rugged platform designed by two Seattle residents, has been launched on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site. Designers Peter Seid and Phu Nguyen already have raised nearly $40,000 through Kickstarter, more than enough for their first production run, scheduled after the fundraising project closes Nov. 21.
“Our robotics platform adds everything that the smartphone is missing – movement, accessories, and physical capabilities that a true robot needs,” Nguyen told TechNewsDaily.
The pair also plan to launch the first "app store for robots," which will allow developers to add their own apps to Romo's capabilities.
“Unlike the lame single-purpose machines out there for sale today, our robots will also be able to learn, grow and change, both by adding new hardware modules to the platform and, more important, by bringing people a true 'app store' for robots,” the two designers, who together call themselves Romotive, wrote on the Kickstarter website. (Kickstarter itself reached a milestone last week with its millionth backer, and it said more than $100 million has been pledged over the past year.)
How to participate
Pledge $78 on the Romo project page on Kickstarter and receive one of the first smartphone-powered robots, scheduled for February 2012, the two creators say. (Smartphone is not included.) The team has added incentives for higher pledge levels. For instance, a two-robot "party pack" is available for pledges of $141; and for $192, according to Romotive, backers will receive a limited-edition Romo in time for Christmas ― laser-engraved, numbered from 001 to 100. Included in the package will be an “I (heart) Robots” T-shirt and a thank-you letter signed by Seid and Nguyen.
The Romo platform is a motorized, acrylic base. It comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and a USB charging cable. The unit will arrive pre-charged. Download the free apps to your phone and get Romo rolling.
3 free Romo apps:
Romo is controlled from a second device such as another smartphone, an iPad or from a computer. Three introductory apps are free. They are:
- RomoRemote: This app turns Romo into a spy robot. Romo uses the smartphone’s camera to send images to another phone. It will also send audio “shout-outs” so that Romo can say out loud messages you’ve programmed. “It's like a walkie-talkie for your spy robot,” Nguyen said.
- Romo Kart: Race against your friends in a mixed-reality version of the classic Mario Kart game. You can send digital attacks and have your friend’s robot spin out of control. You can also disable your competitor's power, deflect bombs, and reverse its controls as you race toward the finish line.
- Drag and Drop Programming Module: You can program Romo right on your smartphone and watch him execute your commands. Features of the drag-and-drop programming app include movement, conditional statements, loops, and reference to other functions.
“Romo can recognize your voice, track a color, go on semi-autonomous missions where they will record video, and post results online,” Nguyen said.
Romo accessories are under development. A drink holder has been created, and the team is working on additional motors, lights, and a toy gun that can shoot balls on command.