Many of the micro-telepresence robots out there are almost exclusively for the iOS ecosystem, and more in particular the iPhone. The Wheelphone by GCtronic, went against the grain and developed a robot for Android, and took a step way beyond as well by including ROS libraries.
I will be honest, this device is not for the faint of heart. On the PC side of the controls, you’ll need to install ROS Fuerte from Willow Garage. If you’re not familiar with ROS, it’s an open source operating system that is vying to be the standard for robot operating systems.
Think Windows for your PC. If you’re comfortable with Java or C, you’ll have no problem with ROS. Of course, having this as your operating system does open up some exciting possibilities for future app development. For instance, you can partake of OpenCV (yet another Willow Garage standard) and implement some computer vision features, or use this as a great training device before tackling other larger project and machines.
If, on the other hand you’re just looking to using this little machine for a pure telepresence, fear not. Using Skype, you can control the motion of the WheelPhone using the number keypad. Using the WheelPhone wiki page you can download some demo apps and take advantage of some of the built in features. There are multiple ground sensors to avoid any cliffs and the IR ground sensors have the ability to sense color changes, giving it the ability to follow a line or stay within a marked space.
The WheelPhone is a good bargain if you’re not into building hardware, the $600 or so for the full pack that includes a smart phone and charging station, you will have saved yourself $399,400 that you would incur to purchase the PR2 from Willow Garage to work with the ROS. Sorry you’ll just have to fold your laundry yourself.
Photos via GCTronic