The ever decreasing costs of hardware and the rise of Maker culture is allowing hobbyists to take advantage of state of the art tools in robotics and computer vision for a fraction of the price. During my informal public talk in San Diego’s Pint of Science event “Machines: Train or be Trained” I talked about this trend and got to show off the results of a side project I had been working on. My aim in the project was to create a robot that was capable of acting autonomously, had computer vision capabilities, and was affordable for researchers and hobbyists.
When I was an undergrad at IU in the Computational Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory the trend was using Khepera robots for research in Cognitive Science and Robotics. These robots run close to $2800 today. Years later I was fortunate to help teach some high school robotics courses (Andrew’s Leap and SAMS) with David Touretzky (here are videos of course projects) and got to see first-hand the great work that was being done to turn high level cognitive robotics into a more affordable option. In the past few years, I’ve been helping to develop the introductory programming and robotics course (Hands-on Computing: SP13, SP14, FA15, SP15) here in the UCSD Cognitive Science department and have really enjoyed using the flexible platform and materials from Parallax (about the course).
For awhile now, my advisor and I wanted to set up a multi-agent system with robots capable of using computer vision. While there exist some camera solutions for Arduino, the setup was not ideal for our aims. My friends had recently used the Raspberry Pi to create an offline version of Khan Academy and it seemed likely that the Raspberry Pi was up to the task.
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, or even use Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for MakeCode, CircuitPython, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.