You've heard of ROS. It's big. It's scary. It powers $400,000 robots through laundry like nobody's business. But it's also more than that, because lots of different robots can (and do) run ROS, even robots that are easy for you to program and easier for you to afford, like this $99 smartphone robot kit from OLogic called Oddwerx.
Oddwerx is a Bluetooth-enabled robotic smartphone dock on tank treads. You can put your iPhone, iPod Touch, or Android phone on it to act as a brain, and run an app that gives the bot a little virtual personality of sorts with vision and face recognition and stuff. (A concept similar to Romotive, which we mentioned here.) So that's kindof neat, but it's not really why you'd want one. You'd want one because the Oddwerx was designed from the ground up to be hackable and extendable with a focus on modular sensors and support for open source and advanced R&D robotics.
What this means is that your little Oddwerx robot with your little smartphone on it is entirely capable of running big bad ROS, and especially if you don't have much experience with robots, you'd be hard pressed to find anything so capable for so cheap. Plus, you remember that the whole point of ROS is that you can benefit from the hard work and cleverness of people smarter than you and
borrow things to get your robot to do cool stuff. (Note that you need an Android phone, to run ROSJava, a pure Java implementation of ROS developed jointly by Google and Willow Garage.) Here's an example:
The only caveat to all of this is that the Oddwerx is on Kickstarter right now, and they've still got a little (or, okay, kind of a lot) ways to go before they'll have enough funding to send you a bot. A $99 pledge (which, remember, you don't actually pay if things don't work out) is enough to get you a complete robot kit, and you've got eight days and counting to take the plunge.
[ Kickstarter ]
[ Oddwerx ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.