Let's Make Robots! | RobotShop

Community Projects (Anyone can participate / contribute)

Always wanted to work on a robotics project but always had trouble finding people to work on it with you? This idea would have users propose and vote on projects that anyone could work on (and perhaps the time frame) and involve the community as well. Normally the projects with the most mass appeal which the most people could do with you would get the most votes. Interested already and want to suggest possible projects? Write about your idea in the comments section below.

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So when do we get started?

If this is accepted, perhaps we could create a new thread and people could make suggestions? Ideally something not too expensive (so as many people can participate), or initially too complex. I have a ton of project ideas, but am very open to what the community decides to do.

I have been wanting to start one of these community projects for quite some time.

There are some conflicting goals though.  For me, having a quality robot come out the other side is important, which means higher cost / complexity / and lower participation.  I personally have no interest in building another toy or moving platform.  I want to build the best bot (or 2nd best if you concede the #1 spot to Gael's InMoov) that has ever been built by the hobby community.  This bot would move, talk, and have something of a brain.  I think this is a worthy and achievable goal.

I realize that each person is going to have different and often strong opinions, budget constraints, skills, etc.  It would seem that the process of arbitrating all these conflicts that could result would be the main challenge.  I have a history leading a lot of large software projects, and while a lot of discussions took place, in the end decisions were not all democratic.  I don't know how we could organize a community project for success.

I have a project I am thinking about that would require a 3D printer, on old phone, and a budget of $600-$1000 for electronics/accessories.  The 3D printing would allow each person to produce exact replicas of all structural components.  There would be an endo-skeleton common to all, with an external shell that people could customize in color, shape, etc. to fit additional sensors or add originality.  The project would be large enough to allow room for expansion, room for a small onboard PC/RPi.  My best guess would be something like a 2-2.5 ft Wall-e or Ava.  The project would have a common operating system/brain, optional arms (to reduce cost for some) and indoor nav system.

I could do this project alone, but I think it could be a lot of fun and a better result to collaborate with a small team of 4-8 if the conflict resolution process could be managed and the people have the skills/budget/will to see it through.  I would especially like to recruit people with vision skills, machine learning, and audio processing, sensor fusion, smart servos, and electronics specialists that can make custom boards / power supplies and the like if necessary.

I would be using a lot of code and 3D printing experiences from Anna/Ava to jumpstart this, so a lot of hardware/software systems could be worked on and evolve concurrently rather than in sequence.  I think this could cut the time by at least half and likely a lot more than something built from scratch.  I think having bi-weekly or monthly video google hangout meetings would be useful for brainstorming, and a repository for docs / code / 3D sketches would be needed.

Pipe dream?


Pipe dream? Not at all. You've already gone through the pros / cons to doing larger projects. Projects which are more "budget friendly" as well as accessible to all (i.e. both experts and beginners can contribute) would likely be the most popular, but that is not to say that more niche projects requiring higher budgets or more specific skill sets would not be possible. One way would be to do a "call for participants" before the project is started. The more up front someone is about the goals, budget etc., the better. Even a few people with a vested interest in seeing a more complex project reach completion, the better. Although just an idea, should this "community project" concept gain popularity, we can see what resources (repositories, discounts) are needed to make it a success.

I've been involved in quite a few group robot projects. They usually fizzle out as people have conflicting views or when things get difficult. At the beginning they tend to be technology wars, with people arguing that certain languages or CPUs be used.

I think there are 3 crucial goals that would make a project like this useful.

1. ability to move around, map an environment and plan paths to any location

2. ability to recognize a qty of useful objects

3. ability to manipulate objects

Without all 3 you have nothing more than a desktop machine that can entertain for a few hours, there are tonnes of these already available. 

I've written these out in detail many times over the years and even given presentations about them. So far everyone tends to fall back on the simpler things. This is where the problem remains. I think of how excited people get about Boston Dynamics, but they are only dealing with the easy part, and none of it is actually robotics.

I'd say first off, a clear goal needs to be defined so you know if you got there or not. Open-ended work only leads to failure.

Sounds depressing doesn't it? Well I think it's exciting!


Videos of one of my robots using an XTION camera for collision-free wandering:




Odometry only based path-planning, with smooth motions:


Robot collecting cans off the floor and taking them to a bin:



In total this constitutes about 2 months actual work over 4 years.