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Raspberry Pi robot and hobby kit robot guide part 2

by Linux user staff

Discover the best robotics kits around for both Raspberry Pi and Arduino

Here’s three more robots in our guide to the best open source robots. Read part one for the best of the rest.

Frindo

The puck robot with a low profile and plenty of front-facing sensors

Technical pecs

Manufacturer: Frindo
Height: 85 mm
Width and depth: 160 mm diameter
Weight: 0.55 kg
Power: 9 volts from 6 AA batteries
Control board: Arduino and/or Raspberry Pi
Form of locomotion: Wheels
Sensors: Four infrared proximity sensors

A squat and very functional robot
A squat and very functional robot

The Frindo is sold more as a robotics platform than an actual all-inclusive robot on its own, but that doesn’t mean it’s a very basic base to be built upon. Out of the box you can do a fair bit with it, while it’s still extremely easy to build upon thanks to its support of standard Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards.

Construction is very straightforward and quick, although you will have to solder on wires to the motor during the construction. This is the only soldering that needs to be done on the Frindo though and it’s very basic stuff. However, it is an extra step on top of everything else that not everyone may be equipped for. Still, the actual chassis construction and fitting of the motors and boards and wheels is done with very few components and can be completed quite quickly.

Once it’s done you have a few options to upgrade. Firstly, you can add a Raspberry Pi to the system either with or without the supplied Arduino. This can be mounted on the opposite side of the board using holes specifically cut out for the original Model B (though unfortunately not the B+). There’s also room for four more proximity sensors as standard, attachable in the spaces between the back and front sensors to create complete 360 degree coverage. The Uno and Pi can take a lot more inputs and outputs as well, so adding custom components is pretty easy.

Due to the dual controller support, the Frindo can be programmed in both Python and the Arduino IDE. Arduino uses the standard libraries and commands, making it great for those already up-to-speed with Arduino programming. The Python program uses the serial library, which uses terminology similar to Arduino, and there’s a good, basic example on the website that can help you understand exactly how the sensors and motors can be operated in this fashion.

The Frindo is the most accessible robot we have here. Very simple yet very good, and excellent to learn with plenty of robotic applications.

Score

Assembly: Simple and quick; the basic chassis is easily constructed 4/5
Build qualiy: Very sturdy due to its shape and all components are protected 4/5
Programmability: If Arduino isn’t your thing, you can always code it in Python 4/5
Functionslity: The Frindo comes with three sensors but can be upgraded 4/5

Best for: hackers

Rapiro

It stood up! The bipedal, humanoid, glowing-eyed, Arduino and Pi-powered robot straight out of Japan

Technical specs

Manufacturer: Kiluck
Height: 257 mm
Width and depth: 196x159mm
Weight: 1.00 kg
Power: 7.5 volts from 5 AA rechargeable batteries
Control board: Custom Arduino (ATmega 328P) with optional Raspberry Pi
Form of locomotion: Bipedal walking
Sensors: Support for Pi camera and a proximity sensor in its chest

Let us see now, the abilities of Kiluck's robot kit!
Let us see now, the abilities of Kiluck’s robot kit!

The Rapiro is very unique on this list, even when compared to something like the Hexy. We were actually discussing in the office the difference in its design: Rapiro looks like a proper robot with its vacuum-formed shell, which in a way puts form over function. Not that it lacks function, but it’s clear its creator Shota Ishiwatari fitted the motors around a design idea rather than design around the functions. It’s a bit life-imitating-art, with Rapiro’s design referencing robots in Japanese media compared to the hyperfunctional American and British robots with their ultrasonic sensors, line sensors and better stability that are more in line with some Hollywood films out there.

Construction of Rapiro is quite simple; you attach the myriad motors to different parts as you assemble the shell around them and thread the wires into his chest cavity where the Arduino lives. It’s not really that fiddly, and there’s no soldering or wiring involved. All the motors just plug into the board using the straightforward labelling you’re asked to do in the manual early on.

While the assembly manual is not written by a native English speaker, the repetition and illustrations are generally easy enough to follow along to. Connecting a Raspberry Pi is not covered in the manual, but the Wiki shows where the connections between the Arduino and the Pi should be made, while the mount points are pretty obvious while
constructing the head.

Programming the motors and servos are quite easy, with a number of preset serial commands enabling you to create custom scripts for the Rapiro to move or react a certain way to different inputs. This kind of autonomy can be achieved by using the Raspberry Pi and its camera to detect motion or specific objects, or respond to commands sent wirelessly to the board.

It’s not the most sophisticated robot on this test, however there’s nothing else that can properly walk on two legs either, or grip things. It’s unique and useful for different tasks in comparison to the wheeled robots in our selection.

Score

Assembly: Time-consuming but not fiddly due to its size 4/5
Build qualiy: It’s very sturdy with a low centre of gravity 5/5
Programmability: Very simplistic Arduino commands are available 3/5
Functionslity: Rapiro can move by your commands and that’s about it 2/5

Best for: Party piece

GoPiGo

The simple and straightforward Pi project robot with WASD control

Technical specs

Manufacturer: Dexter Industries
Height: 85 mm
Width and depth: 130 x 210 mm
Weight: 0.60 kg
Power: 12 volts from 8 AA batteries
Control board: Arduino (ATmega328) and Raspberry Pi
Form of locomotion: Two-wheel drive
Sensors: None – optional Pi camera optical sensor kit

The very simple GoPiGo
The very simple GoPiGo

GoPiGo is one of the simplest kits in the array we’re testing here – simple in a good way though, with none of the negative connotations. The promised 20-minute build time is no exaggeration and we were up and running with this robot in no time at all. With no soldering required either then this really is an ideal gift for anyone interested in putting their first bot together. Given the sub-$100 (£63.80) price point it also makes an excellent base upon which to build more advanced projects, with plenty of room around the Pi and controller board within the open-sided shield for your own sensors and augmentations.

Straight out of the box, GoPiGo will work with Dexter Industries’ firmware to give you WASD control of the two-wheel robot (the ball bearing caster at the rear making this a tricar of sorts), though nothing else beyond basic speed control. Being a Rasperry Pi-based project though, developing more advanced motion scripts and control for things like the optional ultrasonic sensor and camera module is a straightforward task.

There is one criticism to make, however: it seems there’s a flaw with the design in that we found it impossible to connect the wheels properly. The wheels themselves simply slip onto the end of the axles, and can very easily be popped off with a quick knock. The short axle length and nuts that graze the inner tyre wheels mean that it’s difficult to actually push the wheels far enough onto the axles to give you the confidence that it’ll all hold together while driving. But that aside, and given the otherwise sterling quality of GoPiGo, we still feel that this is one of our favourite kits.

Score

Assembly: Simple and quick construction takes less than half an hour 5/5
Build quality: Generally okay, but the wheels have a problem staying on 3/5
Programmability: Can use simple terminal commands and be fully programmed 3/5
Functionality: GoPiGo can move on its wheels, but it has no sensors built-in 1/5

Best for: beginners

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