A young hacker has built a mini Arduino-controlled self-balancing robot that looks for all the world like a mini Segway. It's remote-controlled by a WiiMote, it's cheap, and the chap in question is just 17 years old. That all-robotic future gets nearer every day.
Before Dean Kamen revealed the Segway "personal transporter" 10 years ago in 2001, the mysterious device received much hype due to rumors it could change the world. The electric two-wheeled self-balancing device was revolutionary (although it actually incorporated a lot of technology from an earlier smart balancing wheelchair Kamen designed) but it has so far failed to transform the world. Partly this is due to its multi-thousand-dollar price ticket, which has seen Segways mainly finding use in industries like law enforcement and mail delivery. But it's been 10 years, and technology has moved on—even smartphones like the iPhone incorporate more sensitive accelerometers and gyroscopes than Segways did. And now a 17-year-old hacker has shown us it's possible to replicate much of the Segway's revolutionary powers in a remote-controlled robot that is, in some ways, even more awesome than Kamen's device.
Tijmen Verhulstock from the Netherlands has been working on his SegWii project for over six months, and his finished device incorporates two Arduino controllers (one to handle balancing, one to talk to the WiiMote), powerful stepper motors, a display, motion sensors, and battery. Check out the video below to see the robot in action...
...and if you're really intrigued by how the thing works, then click here to see a more in-depth explanation in a different YouTube video.
In just 10 years it became possible for a very young hacker working with over-the-counter hardware and a hacked gaming device, all worth just hundreds of dollars, to replicate a supposedly "world-changing" many thousand-dollar device's tricks. If you remember all the innovative Kinect hacks that keep popping up, you may be forgiven for thinking that the high-technology, robot-peopled future we've thought about for so long may actually be arriving any day now.