Robots are now everywhere; in manufacturing, in warfare, and even your vacuum cleaner can run around on its own cleaning up your house. We’ve seen our fair share of robotics projects, both DIY and commercial, but the biggest problem with controllable mass-market robots, is that the general population cannot code or tinker with electronics.
Enter the Dobot. The Dobot is a new open-source robotic arm that has recently launched as a crowd-sourced project on Kickstarter. The robotic arm features four axis of movement, and is powered by Arduino. This stepper motors are high precision, with high repeatability, with an amazing 0.2 mm of fluctuation when repeating a job. The video shows the Dobot threading a needle!
Programming and controlling the Dobot has been made extremely easy. You can do simple processing in ‘Processing’, you can program directly in C#, and control directly from an Android smartphone. The firmware is based on GRBL and Marlin, so those who are of tinkered with their own 3-D printers and CNC milling machines will be more than familiar enough to start hacking away.
You can also program Dobot using Scratch, which is a visual programming language that makes programming simple for children and the non-tech public. Communication is via serial, so you should be able to control the Dobot from any serial compatible controller.
If you are not that keen on programming, you can always download programmes designed by other users from the Internet. The Dobot team has taken this a step further, and allows you to control the Dobot from various real-world controlling methods. You can control the robotic arm directly from your Windows computer, using your mouse as a controller. It is also possible to use the Leap Motion 3D Controller, which is an inexpensive gesture controller used by lots of makers the world round.
It is also possible to allow Dobot to ‘see’ the world using OpenCV, and to respond to voice commands via the Android app. A custom Arduino library has been developed to help move and control the robotic arm. With it being based on Arduino, you can control the arm in however many weird and wonderful ways you can think of. For example, the Dobot team have set up EEG control, so you can control the arm with your mind!
The interchangeable ends of the arm, allow you to do completely different tasks. For instance there is a grabber for picking up and moving objects, a poker that allows you to operate keyboards and touchscreen devices, and a paintbrush holder so you can do calligraphy and drawings. Want to do some engraving into wood? Simply attach a engraving laser to the end of the arm. You can even use it to do automated soldering!
At $499, the Dobot isn’t cheap, but it is the most versatile and easy-to-use open-source robot I think I’ve ever dome across. You can grab yourself your own Dobot by pledging to their Kickstarter campaign.