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Making Mobile Robots out of Smartphones and Intel’s OpenBot

  /  Latest News   /  Making Mobile Robots out of Smartphones and Intel’s OpenBot
intel Mobile robots, smartphones, OpenBot, Robot, Robotics

Making Mobile Robots out of Smartphones and Intel’s OpenBot

The merging of robotics and smartphone technology aims at accessibility and scalability


Every six months or so, mobile phones with better sensors, more computing power, and faster connectivity are unleashed. Almost everyone owns a very capable smartphone. Henceforth, it will be an advanced and handy prospect if a smartphone is used for something more common than its normal use case, like merging it with the robotics sector.

Smartphones are becoming a part of people’s life. Whether admitted or not, they are making immense changes in their lifestyle. Robots are also slowly intruding on the everyday mechanism of humans. Starting from domestic robots to work robots, technology is taking head-on in the modern era. Comparatively, mobile phones are reaching higher extends due to its excessive usage. Smartphone manufacturers are also showing extraordinary growth in the field. Henceforth, a group of researchers has figured out the result of applying mobile phones in a robotic system.

Already, many different areas of robotics are benefitting from mobile phones on a component level. But at Intel Labs, the researchers are taking a more direct approach to merge mobile phone technology and robot mechanisms with a project called OpenBot. The initiative turns US$50 worth of hardware and a smartphone into a mobile robot that can support advanced robotic workloads such as person following and real-time autonomous navigation in an unstructured environment.


Robots out of Smartphones

The merging of robotics and smartphone technology aims to address two key challenges in robotics, such as accessibility and scalability. The researchers have developed a combination of hardware and software that turns smartphones into robots. The experiment has shown that a US$50 robot body-powered and featured by a smartphone technology is both inexpensive and capable. The work proves as a gateway to further opportunities for education and large-scale learning via low-cost robots deployed around the world.

Smartphones have features like microphone, speaker, and screen, which are not commonly found in navigating robots. It is an expensive stance to put it all together in a robotic system. It also has dedicated Artificial Intelligence (AI) processors in addition to CPUs and GPUs. There has been a big boost in sensor performance, especially in cameras, and a lot of recent developments for Virtual Reality (VR) applications are well assigned with robotic requirements for state estimation. However, applying mobiles to robotics might enable research and applications at the confluence of human-robot interaction and natural language processing. The basic idea in this work is extended to other forms of robot embodiment such as manipulators, aerial vehicles, and watercraft.

OpenBot doesn’t require much knowledge for its accessing system. So anyone can utilize it with minimum skills. The smartphones are installed in the OpenBot, which turns it into a mobile robot. For the hardware, users need some basic mechanical and electronic experience, whereas the software is a little complicated. There is a good walkthrough to get some relatively sophisticated behaviors like an autonomous person following up and running. However, things rapidly degenerate into a command-line interface that could be intimidating for new users.

The researchers at Intel Labs expect this to attract people into giving this thing a go. If the research continues emerging highly powered robots with smartphones, it is expected to open new doors in the future.