Just Add Wheels: Leveraging Commodity Laptop Hardware for Robotics and AI Education

Jonathan Kelly, Jonathan Binney, Arvind Pereira, Omair Khan, Gaurav S. Sukhatme

Along with steady gains in processing power, commodity laptops are increasingly becoming sensor-rich devices. This trend, driven by consumer demand and enabled by improvements in solid-state sensor technology, offers an ideal opportunity to integrate robotics into K--12 and undergraduate education. By adding wheels, motors and a motor control board, a modern laptop can be transformed into a capable robot platform, for relatively little additional cost. We propose designing software and curricula around such platforms, leveraging hardware that many students already have in hand. In this paper, we motivate our laptop-centric approach, and demonstrate a proof-of-concept laptop robot based on an Apple MacBook laptop and an iRobot Create mobile base. The MacBook is equipped with a built-in camera and a three-axis accelerometer unit - we use the camera for monocular simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), and the accelerometer for 360 degree collision detection. The paper closes with some suggestions for ways in which to foster more work in this direction.

Subjects: 17. Robotics; 8. Enabling Technologies

Submitted: May 2, 2008

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