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It’s National Robotics Week — do you know where your robotic minions are? All this week, we’ll be featuring some of our favorite robots, robot technologies, and past robot projects from the magazine and online.

And we’d like to hear from you about your robotic interests. One question we’d like to pose, for starters: If you could create a simple robot, using currently available technologies, to perform one regular, everyday task (a la the Roomba for vacuuming), what would that task be (and tell us a little about the design of the bot that would accomplish it)? We’ll draw from the entries (through Wednesday, midnight PDT) and send one person a copy of our popular Make: Arduino Bot & Gadgets book.

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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Comments

  1. kieno says:

    A hover drone that follows me around, taking notes and reminding me of tasks and events when I ask.

  2. Lawgo says:

    I want a robot to vacuum the little crevices inside my work keyboard where there lies unspeakable evidence of hair follicles, crumbs, and whatever else that makes me fear turning my keyboard upside down.

    The design would implement a pressure sensor on my office chair so when I am away from the office the robot will go to action after an interval of time, vacuum the particles, and ensure a squeeky clean keyboard for the following day.

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      That’s actually a cool idea. Throw in some santizing, too. All public keyboards need a cleaning bot that sweeps across when nobody is using them. Public keyboards are one of the major germ transfer points.

      1. Lawgo says:

        Now aside from my personal OCD issues, you bring up a great point Gareth in regards to public health. Now here’s a wild idea building on the use of sanitizer: blast the keyboard with ultraviolet light (of course properly shielded) to kill the germs.

  3. Abel says:

    My dream: a robot on wheels that brings you an ice cold beer when summoned by voice. You say “Robot, Beer” and it rolls over to a mini-fridge that can dispense beer from its door. I picture the fridge with a chute-like interior that dispenses from a front-flap in the door (or something like it).

    Ideally voice recognition would a) function correctly and b) locate you based on intensity retrieved from a series of sound sensors.

    Also, all the beers must be home-brewed by me. A long shot, but a man can dream.

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      The beer delivery bot is sort of the holy grail of domestic bots. I’m surprised there’s not a commercial version yet. I’ve seen several homemade designs where the bot IS the minifridge and it comes to you and dispenses a drink a la a soda machine.

  4. Personally I’d be interested to see the development of a garbage cleaning robot, something that would be able to wander through parks and other public spaces to pick up trash.

    1. Daniel Kim says:

      Maybe such a trash-picking robot could separate aluminum from other trash for sale to a recycler.

  5. Linda says:

    I would adore a robot that could do my family’s laundry. It would sort first by color, then by type of fabric, load the washer, add detergent, click appropriate settings, transfer it to the dryer after wash cycle is done, fold all the laundry after drying, and deliver it to the appropriate kids’ room!

  6. Dustin says:

    I have been developing a robot that would mow the yard on it’s own. To keep a straight line i was thinking of beacons that would be moved on edge of the cut grass as the robot drove by. The same design could also be used to vacuum the room in a non random design.

  7. I would make something similar to a Roomba (perhaps using it’s chassis) but have it go around and pick up garbage, specifically used Kleenexes from the wife and kids.

  8. Pete says:

    An idea I have been excited about recently would be a small robot to interact/play with my dog while I am at work. It would have cameras on it so I could enjoy watching it interact with my dog while I am at work. It would be able to pickup his toys, play keep away and throw the toys for my dog.

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  10. daniman750 says:

    No question: an ironing robot. Ironing is one task that I just can’t believe humans still perform on their own. The basic setup would be to hack a roomba by replacing the vacuum brushes underneath it with some kind of hot, steaming surface, and just have the roomba drive back and forth over the piece of clothing that you lay down on the table. Of course, you’d also need to replace the roomba’s treads so that they don’t mark or wrinkle the clothes, but that’s the robot I dream about whenever I’m ironing.

  11. diddlman says:

    I saw a video from RadioShack recently where they hacked an RC car to be controlled by an arduino instead of the built in chip. I’d love to build that right now.

  12. Daniel Kim says:

    Part of defining a useful robot is to find a task that is amenable to automation. The task must be unpleasant, tedious or difficult for a human to do, but doable for a robot. It helps if a robot has some advantage over a human. In the case of a Roomba, for instance, the advantage that the robot has over a human and a vacuum cleaner is that the robot can work unattended during times when the human is otherwise occupied, and the robot can access spaces that are hard for a human to get into.

    iRobot has a pretty good lock on the floor/pool/gutter cleaning tasks, and they may have a lawnmower. These tasks are suitable for a simple robot because they can be performed unattended, especially while the owner is away. Maybe they can be categorized as “absent tasks”.

    Suggestions for a beer-fetching robot, or other machine that carries something to the owner’s location may fall under “owner-location tasks”, since they depend on the robot finding the owner’s location first.

    Another type of task that might be good for robots are ones that require vigilance or constant surveying of the home or other space. “Vigilance tasks” could include a robot that always knows the location of your keys, remote control, phone or purse. Perhaps some kind of RFID-containing tag can be placed on each of these objects. The robot constantly wanders about the house, taking note of the location of each of the unique tags. When the owner queries the location of a particular object, its last known location can be displayed on a computer screen with an overlay of the house floorplan. Perhaps a timestamp will show when it was last detected at that location.

    Such vigilance and mapping could be extended to assess other aspects of the home. If lights are left on in unoccupied rooms, the robot will soon detect this and report it wirelessly to your PC, which may be able to turn the light off remotely. If the ammonia level of the cat litter box reaches a certain threshold, you may get a text message to change the cat litter. A variety of accessory sensors could be developed and purchased to extend the kinds of detection and response that the robot can do. Rather than wire up an automated house, a roving robot can report the status of a large number of sensor states in less-than-real time.

  13. engineerzero says:

    I have pet mice and I would like a little robot that would clean their tank for me. It could scoop up the used bedding and wash the glass sides and lay down new bedding. It would also remove the equipment (water bottles, igloo home, running wheels), clean it, and restore it without overly disturbing the mice. I can handle the food and water myself, but I need ‘someone’ to help with the maintenance!

  14. Daniel Kim says:

    Um . . . so is there a winner of the book? Who’s the lucky guy?

  15. Gareth Branwyn says:

    Ah yes, sorry. Thanks for the reminder. The winner of the drawing was Abel. Email sent.

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