In a world full of technology where a smartphone can cost few tens of dollars and a good laptop is very closer to a few hundred dollars, a robot is still a very expensive gadget regardless of the field of use. Any student, hobbyists or researcher dreaming to the day when a robot can be bought at an affordable price and is able to do a wide range of tasks.
To cut the manufacturing cost of a robot, the trend is to build the robot with cheap components, or in the case of DIY projects we can build at home the desire robot using a 3D printer and a single board computer such as Arduino or Raspberry Pi. Nevertheless, the challenge of cutting prices in robotics is not a completed process since so many expensive products on the market are on the ‘cure’ of cutting prices.
The latest project that can result in an ultra-affordable robot for education or for hobbyists is the MIT printable robot called MIT SEG. With a total cost under $50, the MIT origami-inspired Segway robot is perhaps the cheapest robot for education engineered as an open-source platform able to be built using simple tools and affordable components.
This little robot is made from a foldable sheet that can be equipped with electronic and actuation mechanisms. This simple robot kit provides a simple fabrication and assembly system ready for experiments or to develop electronics and programming skills.
On the mechanical side, the kit comes with all necessary components and doesn’t require special tools for assembly. If you want to control the robot wireless, all you have to do is to embed a Bluetooth communication board, which opens for a smartphone or a tablet all the features of the robot.
Advanced programmers with C++ programming knowledge, as well as students without programming skills can use the graphical drag-and-drop interface provided by ArduBlock. The ArduBlock software is a graphical tool fully compatible with Arduino and designed to provide various operations for the robot using custom subroutines. All these custom subroutines provide you full control over each wheel, over the speed of the robot, or to read the data provided by the light sensor.
You have a large offer to learn about robotics and how to build robots starting with the well-known Lego kit and up to an advanced humanoid robot such as NAO. All of these robots are an expensive alternative compared with the MIT SEG or with a DIY robot build at home, and this is a good chance to start building affordable robots that can be used in education or by hobbyists.