Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Robotic kit: Mirobot, Kickstarter project

Ben Pirt has created a WiFi robotic kit, the Mirobot

which can be programmed with the MIT Scratch robotic software and launching it as a Kickstarter project:

The Mirobot is made up of cardboard cutout which together with the electronics can be put together by the children. In fact Ben Pirt says that if you have a laser cutter, you can cut it out yourself. In putting Mirobot together, the children also learn mechanical design and will also gain satisfaction of achievement on successful putting togeher of the robotic kit.

Mirobot is one big advantage over the tethered WeDo robot, that is, it is free of the troublesome wire and can communicate via WiFi with the computer. The fact that LEGO WeDo hub need to be connected to the computer via a cable is one big disadvantage I had hoped might be solved by using the SBrick, but no luck because currently the innovative SBrick only work with LEGO Mindstormsm and their creators at the moment have no plan to add WeDo compatibility, perhaps later.

The pilot version has the following features

. No big antenna, which was fragile and hard to fit
. Much easier assembly - less fiddly and can be done by someone with just two hands :-)
. No pegs - these often popped out and got lost. They were also hard for children to use
. Tidier wiring - once you got the first version loaded up with all of the add ons there were wires everywhere - no longer!
. Easier upgrades - all automatically pulled down from the internet and less chance of failure
. Improved WiFi - using the fantastically hackable ESP8266 WiFi module, the WiFi can now be customised to do exactly what I want it to do and is a lot more reliable. It's also easier to add new functionality because you can reprogram it if you want to.
. Integrated add-ons - most of the add-ons have been brought on to the main board and there are no trailing wires any more. All kits come with them because it's better that way.
. It comes pre-soldered which will cut out a lot of the issues that the previous generation had.

The new model vs. the old

For those who like this kind of thing, here are some specs so you can see what makes up Mirobot:

Controlled via an Arduino Pro Mini compatible module
WiFi via the developer friendly ESP8266 module (ESP-01)
Takes 4xAA Batteries
It can draw shapes and move its pen up and down
Programmable through the browser
Built in web server to run the software (no software needs installing)
Controllable via JSON over WebSockets (and raw sockets)
Small on-board speaker
Built-in collision detection sensors
Line following add-on included
No soldering required
Fully open source

I would love to support this project and get a kit or two for my grandchildren, but at £40, converted to our currency is a bit too prohibitive for me at the moment.

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