iPad and iPhone-Controlled Robot Toys

iPhone Controlled Robot -- ARDrone Robot Helicopter

I'm intrigued by several recent high-tech robot toys that provide an immersive, augmented-reality experience that is grounded in a real, physical robot.  Almost universally, these new toys are controlled by smart phones or tablet computers (eg. iPad / iPhone / iPodTouch or Android devices) and will likely be hacker / developer friendly.  They are becoming increasingly sensor-rich and often offer video feedback -- all enabled by the commoditization of robotic components.  For example, the Parrot AR.Drone is a quadrotor helicopter that enables UAV aerial dogfights.  Another is the forthcoming Orbotix Sphero, a simple robot ball that will presumably support many mini-games: like a real-life version of Super Monkey Ball or the best cat toy ever!  Yet another example for you hackers out there, Matt Might created an iPhone-based multitouch remote control for a Scribbler robot in just 6 hours and 200 lines of JavaScript / Python!


AR.Drone Quadrotor Helicopter Robot


Parrot's AR.Drone quadrotor helicopter is a $300 robot "toy" with integrated camera(s).  It connects to an iPhone or iPad over WiFi and creates an augmented reality (AR) display over-top the video, upon which interesting games can be designed.  Check out the photos and videos below.

AR.Drone Robot Helicopter controlled via iPhone AR.Drone Robot Helicopter controlled via iPhone



Orbotix Sphero: A "Ball Robot"


Orbotix unveiled its "ball robot" named Sphero at CES 2011, where it was a finalist for "Best in Show." The hardware seems pretty similar to other spherical robots that have been created over the years (eg Solarbotics miniballs, that I remember building over a decade ago).  However, having the brains and controls on a remote smart phone is fantastic.  Just imagine all the fun mini-games that can be created -- it's like a real-life version of Super Monkey Ball!  Even with just teleoperation, I think Sphero would make a fantastic pet (cat or dog) toy, so I'm sure we'll eventually end up purchasing one.  Photo credits to OhGizmo.

Orbotix Sphero Ball Robot  Orbotix Sphero Ball Robot



Matt Might's iPhone Robot Controller


At Georgia Tech's IPRE (Institute for Personal Robotis In Education) winter workshop, professor Matt Might built an iPhone multitouch interface to teleoperate a Scribbler robot.  It took him just 6 hours and ~200 lines of JavaScript and Python code.  You can learn how he did it on his blog.

iPhone Controlled Robot (Scribbler by Matt Might)   iPhone Controlled Robot (Scribbler by Matt Might)

Of course, I'm pretty sure Matt is a programming ninja, so your mileage may vary.  However, it's still pretty encouraging -- the Scribbler is meant to be an educational platform for highschoolers and undergrads, so the technology to build these sorts of robots should be pretty attainable.


Naturally, plenty of other robots will eventually leverage the ubiquity of smart phones and tablets -- for example, we've already seen an iPad being used on iRobot's AVA telepresence robot prototype.  However, it looks like the robot toy industry is (once again) the first to take up the trend. 



I am very curious of the range and the quality of the video stream on the Ar-drones. Anyone knows about it?