Telepresence Robots are robots which allow you to be somewhere you can't physically be, such as being at school while your sick or being at work while your on vacation. While it is amazing technology, most telepresence robots are in the thousands range. Maya, short for Me And You Anywhere, is here to change that. The entire project can be created for under $250 if you have your own netbook or laptop. Maya has something that most telepresence robots in the thousands range do not: It is easily expanded. Change the webcam, the monitor size, the laptop, or add on an arm. The software, RoboRealm, also allows for easy software upgrades such as object recognition and tracking. How is Maya created so cheap? The base! The base is one of those robotic vacuum cleaners also known as a Roomba. It was picked up from ebay for $50 dollars. If you follow the instructions, just about anyone can make it!
Note: I plan to have kits available this summer... Stay tuned!
Step 1: Overview
We are using an Acer Aspire One A150-1126 as the computer on board, but any netbook/notebook running XP, or Linux/Mac if Wine is installed, should be fine. (ARM Processor's will not work) If you have trouble setting up Wine, contact me or leave a comment. The Computer will have to do 3 things,
1. Control RoboRealm
2. Control the Roomba via the RooStick 3.
3. Run Skype
RoboRealm (http://www.roborealm.com/) is an amazing program which is perfect for this project. It enables you, with some work, to control just about any robot. The files needed for RoboRealm to control the Roomba are here:
http://www.mediafire.com/?8m4feeffoqijmnx NOTE: You must have a License, or the trial, to use these files.
RooStick: It is the conversion from the SCI (Serial Command Interface) Port, or on newer Roombas, ROI (Roomba Open Interface), to USB. NOTE: Same port, different names. It is possible to create your own cord, by hacking a serial to usb cell phone cable. t.com/blog/2006/07/19/roombongle-a-roomba-usb-dongle/ Drivers for RooStick available here: http://www.silabs.com/products/mcu/pages/usbtouartbridgevcpdrivers.aspx
Skype: Skype is used to transmit audio. I may switch this up later, but for now it works.
For the webserver to work out of your home network you have to port forward 80, 8080 to your internal IP. (On an Airport Extreme, it's 10.0.1.X. On most other one's it's 192.xxx.xxx.The Webcam used is auto focus which is best for robots. (Rocketfish) If you use a regular webcam, the picture will probably be out of focus a lot. I got it for $20 off of Cowboom.com
Any LCD display, as long as it's not too heavy should work. I got an I-Ink 15" Display form Amazon that weighs about 2 pounds, and was 60 dollars.