In Insert Coin, we look at an exciting new tech project that requires funding before it can hit production. If you'd like to pitch a project, please send us a tip with "Insert Coin" as the subject line.
Everybody loves robots, but the initial ardor for building one can quickly be snuffed out by the complex reality of actually programming it to do anything. That's where Linkbot comes in, a new project from the Barobo team that brought us the Mobot. It's designed as a modular system that can be expanded infinitely with accessories like a camera mount, gripper, and wheels, thanks to three separate mounting surfaces -- which also have standard #6-32 screw attachment holes on the mounting plate to attach personality-enhancing cutouts. Despite the expansion potential, though, it can still be used right out of the box to do robotics without touching a lick of code. That's thanks to several built-in modes like BumpConnect, which permits wireless connections between the modules by touching them together; and PoseTeach, to program complex motions by hand in a similar (but less time-consuming) manner to stop-motion animation techniques.
For those who want to step it up a notch, the system lets you go far past basic mech fun. The Linkbot itself has two rotating hubs with absolute encoding, along with an accelerometer, buzzer, multicolored LCD and ZigBee wireless system with a 100m line-of-sight range. There are also optional breakout and Bluetooth boards to connect sensors like range finders, IR proximity sensors, photo detectors and thermostats. The outfit's BaroboLink software for Mac, PC or Linux is included to program the Arduino-compatible bot in several languages as well, and can even translate previously created PoseTeach motions into computer routines. So far, the company has created working prototypes and even shipped them to local schools, so if you're interested, you can pledge a minimum $129 toward the company's $40,000 target to grab one. That'll net you a Linkbot, two wheels, the BaroboLink software, access to the MyBarobo community -- and hopefully a jolt to your robotics confidence.