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Sphero RVR's search for a niche in introductory robotics



It's now easier than ever to get started for a budding robotist by opening up a global trading hub through online commerce. There are so many robotic kits available on such a broad price and performance spectrum that making a decision about which model to buy becomes a challenging project in itself. Is there room for another product in the crowded market for introductory robotics? Sphero believes it, and they've created RVR to explore not only workshops and classrooms, but also to see if they can find a market niche.

At the bottom of this market we can go online and buy a super-simple chassis – two small geared motors on wheels and a laser-cut acrylic chassis plate ̵

1; for pizza box. At the top we have robots that cost as much as a car. Spheros RVR is located somewhere above Dash Dash, but below the Mindstrom EV3 from LEGO. It is expected that products in this area will consider the details of low-level motion control. Beginners will therefore not get caught up in PID voting before their robot can drive in a straight line. In a sense, Sphero engineers can hide such annoying details from beginners with their experience in robotics from consumers.

However, a big selling point here is completely different than in the closed electronics of consumer electronics: RVR is expandable. Not with proprietary accessory and add-on kits like many of its competitors, but with the components we know and love on the Hackaday sites: Raspberry Pi, micro: bit and whatever else is ready to go with the RVR to communicate its UART port and be powered by RVR onboard 5 volt power supply. Proper care and delivery of a lithium-ion battery is also one of the novelty-friendly details. However, the RVR is still ongoing – one of the reasons why Sphero was launched via Kickstarter is customer feedback. Certainly, the $ 150,000 funding target (easily achievable within hours) is unlikely to play the most important role for a Spheros-sized company.

We hope that the RVR will help to introduce a new audience into building their own robots. When they are ready to outgrow Sphero's kit, Hackaday is happy to help show the way. If you have a 3D printer, it was never better to build your own robot. (Zerobot is on an editor's to-do list.) Those who are fascinated by electronics can look under the cover of low-level motor control, and there is always room to explore high-level image processing systems and neural networks.

Whatever it takes to get you started, just start!


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