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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cheap Programmable Robots

I've always had somewhat of an interest in robots. Up until fairly recently though there haven't really been any cheap robots that I've been particularly interested in. Two that I recently found (and that were on sale :-)) were the Asuro as well as the Viper from Microbrics.

The Microbrics option seems to be aimed towards the beginner and reminds me a lot of more expensive Lego and Mecanno options. Components are Lego like in that they fit together as 'modules'. For instance, one module may consist of an IR receiver (for commands from a remote control) while another may consist of a small electric motor. Funnily enough, there also seem to be completely cosmetic parts as well. You should note that most of the parts are put together using a small (supplied) Philips headed screwdriver. The manual was decent but there could have been more detail to be honest (its fairly short at around 30 pages). Unlike other inexpensive robots though this one can be programmed via a serial port (newer versions can be programmed via USB obviously) using an IDE that uses the BASIC programming language. Moreover, it includes sensors for bump detection, motorised wheels as well as mechanisms for remote control, and line detection.


The Asuro robot is probably one of the least expensive options on the market for something this, 'advanced'. The reason why this is the case is that unlike other robots you need to completely assemble/solder it yourself. (For those of you who are relatively new to soldering short pin/side corresponds to the flat side of the LED diagram on the PCB. For those of you who are impatient, read the manual quickly but 'properly'. Some parts are more difficult to connect if others have been installed first. Other than that does not seem overly difficult to assemble.)

Like other more advanced electronic devices it can be programmed using the C programming language as well as a Visual Interface (which only seems to be accessible using German at this stage though). Like the Viper, it includes sensors for bump detection, motorised wheels as well as mechanisms for remote control, and line detection.

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