Now that I've laid out all of these very lofty goals let me step back and describe the project that I have envisioned and where it came from.
Every interesting robot has the following characteristics:
- a brain
In terms of hardware this implies processing power, motors, camera... among other things. I've spent quite some time thinking through the best platform for my first robot when I stumbled across the following:
Above is a picture of an MSI Wind U100-420US Netbook. The amazing thing about a Wind is it weighs 2 lbs and can be purchased off the shelf for under $300. I was fortunate enough to find one on ebay for under $200. Built into this machine is a 1+ hr power supply, 1.6Ghrz processor, 1.3Mpix webcam, mic, speakers, wifi, and a 10 inch screen. Thus, this machine alone can supply a large amount of portable computing power, vision, hearing, speaking, wireless communication, and visual expression. The only gaping hole between this machine and an interesting robot is interaction. This is where my new friend the adruino microcontroller comes in.
This micro-controller is opensource and inexpensive. It is also really easy to program. I know of it because it is the brain for the Reprap. Micro-controllers, among other things, can tell servo motors what to do. A few lines of C, and a bunch of these
and you can have pretty cool interaction. My end goal is to build a six legged spider with these parts, but the servos alone cost $30 a piece. Considering three are needed per leg your are looking at a bit of saving up. I am going to start with only two legs and some wheels.