Yesterday, we showed you a $99 robot research (and fun) platform that you can buy instead of a $400,000 robot research (and fun) platform. There is a middle ground, though, and the newest entrant is also arguably one of the cutest and roundest: it’s Qbo, who is now officially available for pre-order.
Qbo is, essentially, a bunch of well-designed hardware that’s intended to take all the making-a-robot out of the making-a-robot. In that respect, it’s similar to the philosophy behind otherrobot kits: if you buy a Qbo, you don’t have to worry about spending a lot of time and money (maybe most of your time and money) building a robot from scratch that does what Qbo can do.
So what can Qbo do? Well, that depends on what you want it to do, which in turn depends on what version you want to get and how much you want to spend. Qbo will be coming in three different flavors: basic, lite, and pro, and here are the differences:
• Qbo Basic: If you want to customize all of Qbo’s guts, Qbo Basic is just a chassis with all the plastic covers and mechanical parts along with HD webcams and a set of controller boards. There are no servos, power systems, cables, computers, or other sensors, giving you the freedom to trick your Qbo out just the way you want. You’ll will need to do a bunch of work yourself, and there’s a lot of additional hardware you need to buy, but a lot of that stuff will more or less just drop right in and the Qbo Lite kit will only cost you €499, or about $650.
• Qbo Lite: For researchers who want a robot that works out of the box (like all you software types), Qbo Lite includes sensors and computers and comes fully assembled and ready to go. The hardware isn’t particularly fancy (an Intel Atom processor, 2 gigs of RAM, and a 40 gig mechanical HD), but you do get some rangefinders and proximity sensors and a nice little LCD and those HD webcams. In any case, it’ll certainly get the job done and allow you to start playing around immediately. Yours for €1,699, or $2,220.
• Qbo Pro: The difference between Qbo Lite and Pro is that the Pro version comes with substantially beefed-up hardware. Along with more powerful actuators, Qbo gets an Intel Core i3 processor and a 40 gig SSD, plus a substantially beefed-up price of €2,299, or $3,000.
These are some special pre-order prices (expect your brand new robot to ship in either Q3 or Q4 of this year), and after 1,000 robots have been sold, expect to pay 20 percent more.
And as far as the software goes, Qbo runs Linux and ROS and also comes with access to the OpenQbo open source community, which provides a place where people can share Qbo-specific hardware and software. Current applications include 3D vision, speech recognition, voice synthesis, face recognition, object recognition, telepresence, and SLAM.
The team over at TheCorpora has put six tough years into making this little guy a reality, and we wish them all the best with their launch!
[ TheCorpora ]
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.