Sphero, one of the best selling STEM robotic devices for kids, just announced a new product called the RVR Robot. It looks like Sphero is designing to RVR be more than just a fun, programmable robot. They also intend for it to be a highly customizable platform. This will open up a world of possibilities for hackers, educators, students, technical hobbyists and anyone else ready to take it to the next level. On top of their base functionality, you'll be able to attach and power third party payloads and run third-party hardware like a Raspberry Pi, BBC micro:bit, or Arduino.
Don't mistake it. This is NOT an industrial mobile robot (but we're big supporters of FIRST and STEM education here at The Mobile Robot Guide), but it is filling a gap in the market between the LEGO Mindstorms kits and completely customizable maker platforms. It will have enough out of the box to make inexperienced (or young) makers happy, while provide a completely functional mobile platform for higher level applications.
An Affordable Entry Level Platform
With a base price of $199 on Kickstarter (the Kickerstarter Special level), it's not a huge investment, on par with the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Educational Kit (Street price: $349). As a project base, it looks to be robust enough to survive in a STEM classroom through multiple semesters. Sphero RVR combines the Sphero Edu app, an onboard sensor suite, and their highly sophisticated control system with a truly hackable platform. The possibilities are endless (as hinted in the video)
Higher Level Control System
What I like is the inclusion of odometry in the base control system, which will enable more accurate navigation opportunities. I would imagine that the platform will allow motion profiling (not confirmed) and complex navigation paths, especially with a camera or laser guided feedback. It's entirely possible for this little robot to be a great entry level experience for learning about SLAM navigation in an affordable base.
On the kickstarter site the promise is: "Unique to RVR is our highly tuned, vector-based, closed-loop control system. RVR uses high-resolution encoders and an onboard 9-axis IMU with proprietary algorithms to drive, correct, and navigate based on heading and relative position. Driving straight sounds simple enough, but it takes some serious science and complex tech to drive perfectly straight, arc, and stop with scalpel-like accuracy."
If you're interested check out the Sphero RVR Kickstarter campaign and signup to get in early on this incredible new mobile platform. (Just remember that Kickstarter is NOT a store, there is always risk when you invest in a Kickstarter campaign).