The TElepresence Robot Kit (TeRK) is part of the Toy Robots Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University‘s Robotics Institute. They have a goal of lowering the barrier to entry for Robot designing and attracting more people into the technology fields of Computer Science and Engineering. The first edition of their kit is yet to be released but all indications are that it will be an extremely affordable and easy to use way of building real robots with all the bells and whistles like webcams and wi-fi.
The people at TeRK are hoping to build a community of people that are interested in sharing their experiences with the kit, and becoming inspired by others to keep pushing the boundaries. If it works out for them I can definately see that sort of idea becoming popular with many of the people I know.
The fascinating thing about the TeRK kit is the level of sophistication. Unlike the Lego Mindstorms, a key concept is being able to buy parts from the local hardware store, and electronics from Radioshack. Thus the cost to do any real complicated projects is kept low, and they become more permanent. It also means that I have the chance to spec out the motors and things that I need for the application and not be constrained by what the people at Lego have to offer. Finally it means that I can find a use for the boxes of old remote-controlled cars, radios, and computer parts that have been waiting to be reborn into lunar rover bots.
The kit itself is not available yet but it will contain a ARM9 based processor with Floating Point support. There’ll be plenty of I/O capability, and a FFPGA. It should be easy to run this system for all day without requiring a recharge.