Kilobots, $130 each
I’m absolutely fascinated by swarm robotics and really want to do a swarm project. These Harvard-developed bots made a big splash when they were introduced and initially billed as “$14 swarmbots.” That’s what they might cost you in parts if you built them yourself (the plans are available). If you buy them, from K-Team which produces and sells them into the educational/research market, they’re $1,300 for a swarm of ten. One of my projects in 2013 is going to be building a couple of these. They’re quite ingenious. They use bulk infrared programming — with a programmer that hangs over the swarm — and recharge themselves in a charging pen. How they move is also innovative — three stick-pin legs and pager motors motivate them like a direction-controllable Bristlebot.