Components and assembly of a standard homebrew Let’s Robot creation.
illustration: Mark Taihei

 

Let’s Robot is a site where anyone from anywhere can take control of real life robots via the internet. The robots stream audio and video in real time with little to no latency. There is a chat room that you can use to talk to the other people sharing the experience, or you can use it to make the robots talk to the humans on the other side.

Anyone can actually add their own robot. Since we opened the site last year, more than 700 different homebrew robots have gone live on the site from over 200 different creators around the world.

The interface can be fully customized for each robot, allowing you to add simple wheeled robots, or complicated ones with multiple degrees of freedom. When things get busy, there is a live dynamic voting system that allows the crowd to decide what collective action to take next in real time.

Each Robocaster (this is what we call our broadcasters) has a page they can customize, tell people about their robot builds, and special rules they want their users to follow. We even sell a couple of kits in our store if you want to stream, but don’t know anything about robots. Our website is still an early prototype, so there are still a lot of kinks to work out.

Television Tested

One of our more popular robocasters goes by the name Roboempress. Her creations include Kame, a modified turtlebot with a French accent, Killer Krawler, an awesome robotic ATV designed for outdoors, and PP Cannon, an air-powered high velocity ping-pong cannon. Roboempress allows users to shoot her with ping-pong balls while she works.

Last year, The Chris Gethard Show, which airs live on Tru TV, contacted us about having live-controlled robots on their show for an episode. We commissioned Roboempress to make another ping-pong cannon for them, and made a couple of smaller robots to run around their office. We shipped everything to New York just in time for the episode “Technology will destroy us all.” We were surprised to find out their guest for that evening was none other than John Oliver. Our site had trouble handling the rush of traffic, but thankfully we were able to pelt Mr. Oliver in the face a few times during the episode live on air. They also had a gong that shut off all the show’s lights if hit. Even with many users sharing and voting on controls, everyone was able to organize beyond expectations and become very disruptive for their episode.

Everyone agrees, Jill’s Roxi is the cutest!

Connecting Your Own Robot

If you’re building your own, start here. The robot side software is open source, and runs on most Linux-based computers. We even have an API that allows you to fully customize the experience.

Most of the homebrew robots on Let’s Robot use the following components:

• Raspberry Pi or other single-board computer. The newest Raspberry Pi has onboard Wi-Fi, you just need to point it at your access point.

• SD card with Raspbian or NOOBS installed. You can follow our guide to get our software to run on your robot, and pair it with the site: letsrobot.tv/setup.

• Microcontroller, such as Arduino. The Adafruit motor hat is also popular.

• Camera to see

• Microphone to hear

• Speaker to let the robot talk

• Body to hold all the parts

• Motors and servos to move and drive around

• LEDs and sensors to make things interesting

• And a battery to power it all

A lot of devices and robots are already supported by our software, including the GoPiGo Robot, and Anki Cozmo. If you have an awesome robot just sitting on the shelf collecting some dust, this could be a great way to share it with everyone!

If all of this sounds like too much, we also sell a development kit called “Telly Bot,” which works out of the box with the letsrobot.tv site. We’ll see you online..

Awesome user-created robots

Photos courtesy of LetsRobot.tv