Robotics

Sphero rolls out roving robot that's made for hacking

Sphero rolls out roving robot ...
The Sphero Rvr robot has been designed as a blank template for hacker creativity
The Sphero Rvr robot has been designed as a blank template for hacker creativity
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The Sphero Rvr robot works with the company's Edu app
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The Sphero Rvr robot works with the company's Edu app
The Sphero Rvr robot drives right out of the box, but hackers and tinkerers can add third party hardware and program it to do their bidding via the Edu app
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The Sphero Rvr robot drives right out of the box, but hackers and tinkerers can add third party hardware and program it to do their bidding via the Edu app
The Sphero Rvr robot has been designed as a blank template for hacker creativity
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The Sphero Rvr robot has been designed as a blank template for hacker creativity
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The Sphero Rvr has a suite of sensors to detect color, light and infrared
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The Sphero Rvr has a suite of sensors to detect color, light and infrared
The Sphero Rvr robot features a 4-pin universal expansion port, allowing makers to install third party computer boards like a Raspberry Pi or Arduino
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The Sphero Rvr robot features a 4-pin universal expansion port, allowing makers to install third party computer boards like a Raspberry Pi or Arduino
User s program the Rvr using the Sphero Edu app, which is based on Scratch visual programming language
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User s program the Rvr using the Sphero Edu app, which is based on Scratch visual programming language
"By connecting your hardware of choice to the expansion port, the customization possibilities are endless and entirely up to you," says Sphero's Adam Wilson. "For example, you can hook up a camera to RVR and program facial recognition to do a dance every time your best friend walks by."
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"By connecting your hardware of choice to the expansion port, the customization possibilities are endless and entirely up to you," says Sphero's Adam Wilson. "For example, you can hook up a camera to RVR and program facial recognition to do a dance every time your best friend walks by."
The Sphero Rvr has a ground clearance of 20 mm, with four wheels and grippy rubber tracks making it suitable for traversing all kinds of different terrain
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The Sphero Rvr has a ground clearance of 20 mm, with four wheels and grippy rubber tracks making it suitable for traversing all kinds of different terrain
The Sphero Rvr can be used as an app-controlled artist, painting the canvas with its rubber tracks
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The Sphero Rvr can be used as an app-controlled artist, painting the canvas with its rubber tracks
Working with the Sphero app, the robot rover can be driven around straight out of the box
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Working with the Sphero app, the robot rover can be driven around straight out of the box

Smart toy maker Sphero is probably best known for its BB-8 rolling droid, but has recently been aiming its products at future programmers and makers. The company has opted to take the crowdfunding route to fund production of its latest bot – called Rvr – which has been designed to be tweaked and hacked by adult hobbyists and young roboticists alike.

The Rvr rolling robot platform is Sphero's response to feedback it's received over the years, with customers asking for future products to be able to tackle different kinds of surfaces, respond to voice commands, serve as home security patrol, be a battle bot when needed, and more.

This platform doesn't meet all feature requests out of the box, but has been designed so that users of all skill levels can pretty much make it do whatever they want it to do.

The Sphero Rvr robot works with the company's Edu app
The Sphero Rvr robot works with the company's Edu app

It works with Sphero's Edu app, and can be driven around straight away using joystick controls within the app. Once it's been taken for its first test drive, users can then dive into coding using the same app in an environment based on Scratch visual programming language.

The first port of call for newbies will likely be the app's Draw and Drive feature, then they can get a bit more serious with block programming before moving into JavaScript coding. If help is needed along the way, or just more info or a chance to chat about Rvr adventures with other hackers, the Edu app also has an online community to explore.

The Sphero Rvr robot drives right out of the box, but hackers and tinkerers can add third party hardware and program it to do their bidding via the Edu app
The Sphero Rvr robot drives right out of the box, but hackers and tinkerers can add third party hardware and program it to do their bidding via the Edu app

The robot itself has the look of a remote-controlled toy, with four chunky wheels and a relatively high ground clearance (20 mm) giving it all terrain capabilities. The Rvr has a suite of sensors to detect color, light and infrared, as well as a magnetometer, accelerometer and gyro. And there's a bunch of addressable LEDs to mess around with too.

It's powered by a removable battery that lasts about 2 hours per charge. There's a 4-pin universal expansion port with onboard 5 V/2.1 A USB data and power that's ready to receive maker boards like the Raspberry Pi, BBC micro:bit or Arduino, backed up by software libraries and samples of code to make it easy to get things rolling as soon as possible.

Sphero says that project backers can look forward to a pro-level vector-based, closed-loop control system with hi-res encoders, a 9-axis inertial measurement unit, and the company's own algorithms.

The Sphero Rvr Kickstarter has already trundled past its US$150,000 funding goal with more than a month on the campaign clock. Pledges start at US$199 and, if all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in October. The video blow has more.

Sources: Sphero, Kickstarter

Sphero RVR – The go anywhere, do anything programmable robot

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