Freescale introduces sensor-laden humanoid robot platform for US$200

Open source hardware and software will drive development quickly.

A hundred years ago, the state-of-the-art of automotive technology was being pushed forward as quickly by shade-tree mechanics as it was by formal industrial R&D. To paraphrase John Steinbeck: “Two generations of Americans knew more about the planetary system of gears than the solar system of stars.” The current situation in robotics could be seen in a similar light – open source hardware and software provide very similar tools and capabilities to hobbyists and robotics start-up company alike. To ease entry into the field, Freescale Semiconductors has just introduced FSLBOT, which provides the basic hardware and software for development of a walking, sensor-laden robot starting at only US$200.

The compelling challenge of designing and/or programming a humanoid robot is often offset by the complexity of such robots. They often have dozens of servo controlled degrees of freedom combined with an array of modern sensors and high-level autonomous computing facilities to allow the robot to make some degree of sense out of its environment.

For example, Honda’s newly updated ASIMO robot has 57 degrees of freedom (each DOF having servo-control and position sensing), is 130 cm (4’3″) tall, weighs 48 kg (106 lbs), can walk, run (9 km/h or 6.7 mph), hop, skip, jump, kick soccer balls properly, act as a host who fetches guests a drink, can speak and interpret sign language, and performs such tasks using only autonomous computing facilities. Of course, the handmade ASIMO costs about a million US dollars per unit, so a high level of sophistication is expected.

The simpler (25 DOF) and smaller (58cm or 23″), but still impressive NAO robot from Aldebaran Robotics is a popular US$15K humanoid robot for schools and universities interested in training and development programs. Still a bit pricey for beginning a personal robotic development program, however.

Freescale has developed and is now marketing FSLBOT, a 23cm (9″) tall walking robot with four DOF, three-axis accelerometer and magnetometer, onboard 32-bit RISC processor, electronics to control four additional servos and sample and development software, all for $199.

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via Gizmag – Brian Dodson

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