Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education Hardware Hacking Robotics Build News

African Robotics Network Challenge Spurs Rash of $10 Robots 60

Posted by timothy
from the isn't-rash-a-good-plural-for-robot? dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this story from Wired: "When the African Robotics Network announced their $10 robot design challenge this summer, co-founder Ken Goldberg was careful not to share too many expectations, lest he influence contestants' designs. But he never imagined one of the winning entries would prominently feature a pair of Spanish lollipops. The challenge, hosted by AFRON co-founders Goldberg and Ayorkor Korsah, emphasized inexpensive designs to help bring robotics education to African classrooms." Winners include "the lollipop-laden Suckerbot and traditional (roaming) category first prize winner Kilobot, a Harvard-spawned three-legged, vibrating, swarming robot."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

African Robotics Network Challenge Spurs Rash of $10 Robots

Comments Filter:
  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @02:17PM (#41507375)

    seems to be loosening. I could take my old pager, stand it on end and watch it walk on the table, but I never considered it a "swarmbot" ... and it had more brains packed inside.

    I know that's not the point of the exercise, but it just seems like any gizmo that wiggles around gets classified as a "robot"

    • You're not thinking about the possible applications of this technology. You're suppose to fill your pockets with Harvard-spawned three-legged, vibrating, swarming robots, and then enjoy your commute to and from work more.

      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        I was thinking more dangerously.....Robotic Somalian Pirates...

        Then again...guess it could be more benign....robotic fly swatters, seems they need a bunch of those in all the pics I see coming from Africa.

        Maybe robotic farmers.....maybe they could figure how to feed themselves for a change....

        • by jkflying (2190798) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @03:01PM (#41507587)

          Maybe robotic farmers.....maybe they could figure how to feed themselves for a change....

          You realise one of the reasons Africa has famine is because westerners keep dumping free food on them, putting the local farmers out of business? It's a bit of a vicious cycle - you can't just ignore millions of starving people - but every time free food gets given out it upsets market prices as well.

          It's a bit like the H1B situation in the states keeping skilled professionals' wages low.

          • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

            by flyingfsck (986395)
            The main problem is that each time you dump free food on them, they produce more children.
            • Even though the parent has been modded flamebait, I think population explosion is a huge problem which should be put under control as soon as possible. It makes malnutrition situations even worse and it will be difficult to create enough jobs, build homes, educate the children etc -- if the population is growing very fast. And at some point the population growth will hit a wall, because we live in world of limited resources.And even before hitting the wall, life will be quite miserable, because so many peo

          • by fyi101 (2715891)
            I was under the impression that 1st World subsidized food production was a much bigger problem for African farmers, by way of the Western World dumping millions of tons of cheap food into the markets and making it impossible for them to compete; you make it sound as if the "good intentions" of the 1st World is what's causing the damage, I think it's a bit more depressing/sinister/insert-cynical-consideration-of-the-way-the-world-works. Perhaps you can correct me on this.

            The worst part is that the subsidi
            • by jkflying (2190798)

              I'm not going to second guess intentions. All I know is that I can see the results.

              • by fyi101 (2715891)
                I wasn't commenting on the intentions, I was refering to the food aid that you pointed out as the presumed culprit of African woes. I was saying that the results you see may have a lot more to do with unfair market competition than with food aid, and that removing food aid while ignoring the flooding of markets with subsidized food from the 1st World could mean starving populations, without actually solving anything.

                Having to compete with cheaper is just as bad as having to compete with free, farmers can'
                • by jkflying (2190798)

                  Ah, yes, absolutely. And even without the subsidies, competing with Big Agri is hard enough for the little guy when customers are very conscious of the price they are paying for food, and aren't very fussy about it being "organic" or "local".

                  As for the subsidies, as an example, I know it's cheaper here to get Italian tomato sauce than local, which makes absolutely no sense. The only way for that to be possible, given wage disparity and shipping costs, is for the Italians to be selling their sauce for below

                  • by TheSync (5291)

                    I know it's cheaper here to get Italian tomato sauce than local, which makes absolutely no sense. The only way for that to be possible, given wage disparity and shipping costs, is for the Italians to be selling their sauce for below cost.

                    Unlikely. More likely is that the Italian tomato sauce is experiencing tremendous economies of scale, rather than local farmers who are only making small batches of the stuff instead of ten-thousand gallons of sauce at a time, automated jarring lines rather than hand-jarr

                    • by jkflying (2190798)

                      This is South Africa I'm talking about, not the jungle. We have all of the economies of scale that you're ever going to benefit from with tomato sauce. We have industrial fruit picking machines, 18 wheeler transportation, mechanised bottling, local glass jar moulding facilities, large cold-storage facilities, the works. We export huge quantities of fruit (particularly apples and oranges) to both the EU and the US, so I don't expect the Italians to have better environmental conditions or they would be export

          • You're right, dumping lowers demand for local farmers driving them out of business. This is why you give them some way of having demand such as money or food stamps. They then buy from local farmers, and it encourages a local farming industry. In times of famine and crisis, you can import foods, but for lasting change, you need to be able to give the poorest of the poor some way to exercise market demand of their own.
          • by rthille (8526)

            We really should be dumping "appropriate tech" on them instead. Low cost (low or high tech) well drilling and water pumping systems, crop rotation and such.

    • by glavenoid (636808)

      Then again, some of those "robot" gizmos that wiggle around are pure genius [youtube.com]

    • by jkflying (2190798)

      If you could control the direction it walked, then why would it be any different from something with wheels?

      Full disclosure: my MSc supervisor was involved in judging the competition.

    • seems to be loosening. I could take my old pager, stand it on end and watch it walk on the table, but I never considered it a "swarmbot" ... and it had more brains packed inside.

      I know that's not the point of the exercise, but it just seems like any gizmo that wiggles around gets classified as a "robot"

      Many robots are, indeed, deeply pointless; but the 'swarmbot' thing is actually an arguably genuine category and one with some interesting work being done: The idea is, cribbing shamelessly from organisms like ants and termites, to examine the behavior and capabilities of multiple(generally low-capability) robots collaborating on a task with limited or no central command-and-control.

      The robots people build for this research tend to be pretty trivial(because it needs to be cheap for the lab dozens of them bu

    • by Larryish (1215510)

      "Suckerbot" has to be tethered to a laptop to work. The guidance system is part of the robot's system, and IMO should therefore be included in the price.

      "Kilobot" is a nice design and seems to be an actual programmable autonomous self-contained unit.

      They are both a tall step up from "BattleBots" styled offerings, in that Suckerbot and Kilobot are actually robots, and not fancy RC cars mislabeled "robot".

  • Real progress toward edible electronics.

  • Sign me up (Score:5, Funny)

    by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @02:28PM (#41507427)

    I'm intrigued by this $10 Suckbot.

    What? Oh. Once again, misread the summary and disappointed by the actual article.

  • Great Recycling (Score:3, Interesting)

    by epSos-de (2741969) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @02:30PM (#41507437) Homepage Journal
    Most of the robots appear to be build from up-cycled trash that gets dumped in Africa. Imagine the potential, if they had real access to cheap processing units and cheap sensors. Imagine, if they could get an Arduino board for 3 dollars from China.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Imagine, if they could get an Arduino board for 3 dollars from China.

      Imagine if I could get an Arduino board for 3 dollars from China. Arduino is pretty steep for what you're getting if you compare it to a lot of finished products. I don't mind paying it because it's still better for what I want than hacking one of those finished products, and it's still cheaper, but it doesn't look as cheap when you compare it to a $50 android tablet.

      • by Osgeld (1900440)

        your comparing cars to engines

        android tablets are great when you want small computing power, not so much when you need to interface with the physical world. for example I am working on a project right now that has a machine on one end, a core 2 duo on the other end and guess whats in the middle bridging the two together

        it sure as fuck isnt a android tablet

        • I think the point was that if an Android tablet can be built and sold at a profit for $50 then it is likely that an Arduino board could be built and sold at a profit for less than the current price(s). I agree.
          • by Osgeld (1900440)

            3 bucks for a clone is hard to beat considering the chip in single quantities cost more than that

            • I think you are being a bit literal.
              • by Osgeld (1900440)

                yes, I am

                I would love to see you produce a arduino for less than three bucks for public sales

                I think your being a bit idealistic, its all about quantity ... chico spends 40$ making a crap arm tablet and sells tens of millions of them for a 10$ profit each, then you should be able to sell tens of thousands of arduino's for less than 3 bucks

                electronics prices is a total quanties game, you buy one chip its 4 bucks, you buy 100 its slightly cheaper, you have a fab dedicating a significant portion of its line t

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @03:27PM (#41507749) Homepage

    The definition of "robot" is pretty useless now. Because my cellphone meets the definition of a robot, my video camera does, a RC car seems to be a highly advanced "robot".

    I learned that a robot is a mechanical device that can perform tasks automatically. It may – but need not – be humanoid in appearance. Some robots require some minor degree of guidance, which may be done using a remote control, or with a computer interface.

    All of these need Major guidance, as in "remote control car".

    But, let's call them robots as it makes people feel better.

    • by chrismcb (983081)

      The definition of "robot" is pretty useless now. Because my cellphone meets the definition of a robot, my video camera does, a RC car seems to be a highly advanced "robot".

      Your cellphone nor your video camera accomplishes manual tasks. And an RC car only accomplishes the task that the person tells it what to do.
      A robot is a mechanical device that can perform manual tasks automatically. The definition of robot is not useless. Although there are some things that might qualify as a robot, that we wouldn't normally associate "robot" with, like your CD drawer that pops out automatically.
      There are two essential pieces to a robot. It needs to be autonomous (an RC car is not) and

  • Is it too late for me to change careers to be a robot designer, and how do I go about doing it? :)
    No, seriously, do I need to go back to school and get an EE degree, or what?

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      no, just start reading and doing, especially today where you can get lego block modules, plug them in and slap some libraries together without knowing much of anything with just a click from one of the many overpriced hobby "maker" shops.

      no you will not be an expert doing it that way, but its a way to dive in and see if you really want to, while learning a ton at the same time

  • Not needed. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by goodmanj (234846) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @07:19PM (#41509053)

    Africa doesn't need robots for its kids. It needs highways, and trucks, and rails, and trains, it needs stable electrical power, it needs industrial water treatment networks. Starting in its coastal cities, and building into the interior. That's how China got where it is today: infrastructure.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      Africa doesn't need robots for its kids. It needs highways, and trucks, and rails, and trains, it needs stable electrical power, it needs industrial water treatment networks. Starting in its coastal cities, and building into the interior. That's how China got where it is today: infrastructure.

      First off, why should Africa build highways? China and India built the classical western-style consumption oriented infrastructure... in the 90s and today, lots of places and roads empty -- and peak oil is looming. R

      • by goodmanj (234846)

        First off, why should Africa build highways? ... peak oil is looming. Railroad (which they have) is good but the car may be hammer in a time when a screwdriver is needed.

        It's not about cars. It's about *trucks*. Sub-Saharan Africa represents the biggest pool of cheap labor on the planet. Its coastal cities have the potential to become the next Shanghai; its inland cities have the potential to become the next Chengdu a decade later. With wages across the Far East skyrocketing, why aren't manufacturers fa

    • Moron. They need to form scientists and engineers as much as the next guy.

An Ada exception is when a routine gets in trouble and says 'Beam me up, Scotty'.

Working...