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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.

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.


  1. Jim says:

    I have the mint and love it. It is very quiet – barely noticeable unless it is right underfoot. It has two modes – sweeper and mop. You can use standard swiffer dust pads for the sweeper and swiffer makes a wet pad that works great for the mopping mode. Works great for our mostly wood or tile flooring. We run it regularly and you would be surprised at how much it picks up from “clean” floors. Not able to schedule like a roomba, but not really an issue, due to the fact that it is so quiet and can run relatively unnoticed with you in the room.

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      Thanks for that feedback, Jim. Does the NorthStar navigation work OK? I found it very problematic on the Rovio.

      1. Jim says:

        I have little reference for comparison. I will say that it is thorough and simple during sweep mode. It basically makes long runs back and forth in a very simple “mowing the lawn” pattern. In mop mode, it does a little 2 steps forward, 1 step back jig along a path that I would assume is to dislodge dirt. I always place the cube as instructed and it does show that it connects to the mint. It returns to its starting position and doesn’t seem to miss anything – although I have one very large room that it will only do half of and then I have to restart it on the other side – so it doesn’t wander too far from its cube. My only frame of reference is my friend’s roomba vacuum.

  2. Bill says:

    Put “Suicide Booth” on the Litter Bot and sales would go crazy.

  3. Jessie says:

    We have the Neato vacuum bot and love it. Plus it’s like having a Super Nintendo running around your house.

The Gift of Bot