With online commerce opening up a global marketplace, it's now easier than ever for a budding robot to get started. There are so many robot kits available, with so much price range and sophistication, that deciding which one to buy will become a difficult project in itself. Is there room for another product in the crowded introductory robotics market? Sphero believes so, and they have launched RVR to explore not only the workshops and classrooms, but also to see if they can find a niche in the market.
At the bottom of this market, we can buy online a very simple chassis – two small wheeled gear motors and a laser cut acrylic frame plate – for money for a pizza. At the top we have robots that cost as much as a car. Sphero's RVR is somewhere above Wonder Workshop's Dash, but below Mindstrom EV3 from LEGO. Products in this range are expected to support low-level motion control details. Thus, beginners will not be bogged down by things such as PID setting before their robot can drive in a straight line. Sphero engineers are certainly able to hide these annoying details to beginners, thanks to their experience in consumer robotics.
But a big selling point here is completely opposite to that of the consumer electronics: the RVR is designed to be scalable. Not with proprietary accessories and complementary kits like many of its competitors, but with the components we know and love about Hackaday pages: Raspberry Pi, micro: bit, and everything that is ready to communicate with RVR via its UART port and powered by RVR aboard the five-volt power supply. The proper care and power of a lithium-ion battery is also one of the careless details for beginners. But the RVR is not yet finalized – one of the reasons Sphero announced its launch via Kickstarter is to get feedback from its customers. Granted, the goal of $ 150,000 (easily reached in a few hours) was probably not the most important part for a company the size of Sphero.
We hope that RVR will help introduce a new audience to building their own robots. Hackaday will be happy to show you the way when they are ready to go beyond the limits of the Sphero kit. If you have a 3D printer, it has never been easier to build your own robot. (Zerobot is on the list of tasks to be performed by an editor.) People fascinated by electronics can take a look under the hood of low-level engine control and it is still possible to explore the high-level vision and neural networks.
No matter what you need to get started, start!