Build Your Own Internet-Controlled Robots

Carnegie Mellon University researchers say building robots doesn't have to be rocket science. They've unveiled a set of recipes for building Internet-controlled robots with off-the-shelf parts.

The Telepresence Robot Kit (TeRK) features one key piece of Linux-based hardware called a Qwerk controller, but otherwise calls on would-be robot builders to use off-the-shelf parts. Qwerk has USB interfaces and controls a robot's motors, cameras and other components. It also allows for wireless connectivity to the Internet, from which the robots can be controlled.

One example of a robot that could be built with the kit is a three-wheeled rover with a camera attached that could keep an eye on your house or pet. Other examples are a flower loaded with sensors and an Internet-controlled teddy bear.

The TeRK project is led by Associate Professor of Robotics Illah Nourbakhsh and members of his Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment Lab. Charmed Labs of Austin also developed Qwerk.

"We want robots that don't just subscribe to geeky notions of what robots should be," Nourbakhsh said in a statement.

It has taken about 18 months to build TeRK, with support provided by Google, Intel and Microsoft.

Network World wrote last year about a robot from CMU researchers beating automated Texas Hold'Em programs.

Cisco is another outfit that has been busy on the robotics front, having developed a set of small smart robots, which can act as wireless communications relays ; they sense when mobile users are moving out of service range and follow them to maintain connectivity.

Check out Network World's Alpha Doggs blog for the latest in networking research at universities and other labs.

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