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Resurrecting the Dead - beebot

Six years ago I launched a sister site titled beebot. It was meant to be my personal blog investigating cheap personal robotics. I had purchased the original Lego Mind Storms system, and had hacked it with a different ROM so that it would run an application that made it behave like a drunken toy Segway. I'd also gone to the trouble to pick up a bunch of Vex Robotics systems from Radio Shack when Radio Shack decided to get out of selling them and cut their price in half. In the end I picked up three complete kits plus a lot of extras, such as the track system you see to your right bolted onto a regular squarebot construction.

I'd even gone to the trouble to pick up a Gumstix system along with an external I/O board for it. I had all that hardware lying around and I wanted to really build something useful and unique, contributing back to the community.

Well, you can see how that turned out.

I made five entries in that blog, and put everything in boxes on the shelf. I had one thing after another happen to me during that period, and events got so intense I had no energy at the end of the day devote to anything creative, let alone robotics. But that's about to change, believe it or not.

One problem I ran into was the lack of maturity of many of the products I had purchased. As long as I stayed within the very specific restrictions of the items I purchased, you could get something to reasonably work. But it wasn't real robotics, not in the way you see it portrayed in popular culture. I wasn't looking for the equivalent of an Asimov robot, but I wanted something that could react swiftly to its environment and could actually take verbal orders from me. I went looking for something to start working with, but found nothing that I could build from first principals or, better yet, port to a powerful enough platform. The Gumstix, while interesting, wasn't quite up to the task, and I was already about $300 into the hole with that when I stopped.

Six years is a long time, and technology has evolved mightily since last October 2006 when I made my last entry. I've started to pull everything down, dust it all off, and look at the current state of the art. The mechanical platforms are still in good shape and are still good enough to use for experimentation. What's truly advanced are the personal computing platforms, and the software that can run on them. As is so typical, their capabilities have gone up while the price has gone down.

I think it's time for me to try this once again. A lot has changed, especially my work environment, which encourages free thinking and subsequent personal experimentation. I've also been inspired by the flight of the Falcon 9 and the subsequent docking of the Dragon at the ISS. I believe in the future again. Traveling to the future won't be easy, and the road to the future will be quite long and rocky. I want to travel down this road by personally contributing as much as I can to the advancement of intelligent machines. We'll need those intelligent machines when we finally go into space for real, and we will. All this hardware that I collected six years ago, that's been lying around, is a good foundation. I just need to update some of the computational bits, and then pick a path to follow that interests me.

I don't know where the end lies this time, but it won't be back on the shelf.


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