Intel researchers design smartphone-powered robot that costs $50 to assemble

Robots don’t should be pricey. If truth be told, if there’s a smartphone at hand, a wheeled ‘bot will also be constructed for round $50, in keeping with Matthias Muller and Vladlen Koltun. The 2 Intel researchers are the coauthors of a up to date paper titled “OpenBot: Turning Smartphones into Robots,” which proposes leveraging telephones to equip robots with sensors, computation, conversation, and get entry to to an open device ecosystem.

The usage of off-the-shelf smartphones as robotic brains confers a number of benefits past price financial savings. Fast improve cycles imply secondhand smartphones are readily to be had — an estimated 40% of the sector’s inhabitants owns smartphones — they usually’re continuously bettering with reference to digital camera high quality and processor pace. Additionally, even commodity fashions recreation inertial dimension gadgets, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, mobile modems, and devoted chips for AI inference, a few of which outperform desktop processors.

Within the researchers’ OpenBot design, a smartphone plugs into an electromechanical frame for sensing, information fusion, and computation. The robotic’s chassis is designed to be 3-D-printable and accommodate as much as 4 motors, with cutouts for a controller, microcontroller, LEDs, a smartphone mount, and a USB cable. A battery pack connects to devoted terminals to ship energy to the motors as wanted, and an Arduino Nano board pairs with the smartphone by way of USB, offering a serial conversation hyperlink and tool. The 2 entrance wheels are supplied with sensors that ship odometry alerts, and pins attached to the motor controller permit for real-time pace and course changes.


OpenBot’s device stack is a little more effective, consisting of most effective two parts that keep in touch by way of the serial hyperlink. An Android app runs at the smartphone, offering an interface for an operator to gather information units whilst working higher-level belief and keep watch over workloads. In the meantime, a program working at the Arduino looks after low-level actuation, in addition to measurements like odometry and battery voltage.

Courtesy of the Android app, OpenBot will also be managed with off-the-shelf Bluetooth-compatible PS4, Xbox, and Transfer sport controllers. The buttons at the controllers will also be assigned to such things as information assortment and switching amongst path-finding fashions, together with out-of-the-box fashions for self reliant navigation that discover and apply other people inside the robotic’s line of sight.

Muller and Koltun performed checks to check the robotic’s efficiency with quite a lot of smartphone fashions. Whilst the most cost effective low-end telephone they examined (a Nokia 2.2) carried out the worst, it nonetheless controlled to discover and apply an individual about part the time. Additionally, all the contemporary mid-range telephones examined (together with the Xiaomi Notice eight, Huawei P30 Lite, and Xiaomi Poco F1) tracked other people persistently at 10 frames in step with 2nd or larger thank you the telephones’ devoted AI accelerators.

“This paintings targets to handle two key demanding situations in robotics: accessibility and scalability. Smartphones are ubiquitous and are changing into extra robust through the yr. We’ve got advanced a mixture of hardware and device that turns smartphones into robots. The ensuing robots are reasonably priced however succesful,” the researchers wrote. “Our experiments have proven $50 robotic frame powered through a smartphone is in a position to individual following and real-time self reliant navigation. We are hoping that the introduced paintings will open new alternatives for schooling and large-scale finding out by way of hundreds of cheap robots deployed all over the world.”

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