Cell phones plus robots equals cellbots–didn’t you know? The organizers of the upcoming app-centric developer conference AppCon 2010 know all about them, and just for kicks they’re having a Cellbot Hackathon competition.
If you’re still clueless about what a cellbot may be, then just think about what a modern smartphone really is: It’s a self-powered portable device, brimming with electronics and sensors, often with Wi-Fi connectivity, and it comes with the ability to run user-coded apps through an easy-to-use user interface. In other words, it’s a portable electronic brain perfectly suited to replace the dedicated and hardware-specific bundles of electronics that typically you’d need to control a robot.
Cellbot competition coordinator Darrell Taylor, quoted in the press release, notes that “until the advent of the smartphone, building your own robot would’ve been an expensive and complicated process–not to mention the fact that you’d end up with a huge contraption.” In his competition, participants get given the basic chassis of the device, to create a level playing ground, and they also get given the API and some example Android code to power the device. They’ll then get to build their final bot, and compete against each other in how well each cellbot can “perform a specific, timed task.” What they’ll actually have to do is a secret, and won’t be revealed until August 17th, just a week prior to the start of the whole AppCon event.
But how sophisticated can cellbots be? They’re pretty smart, and even as toys they’ve got a huge educational value, and may help push the next generation of robot designers to new and greater heights. Check out this video of an iPhone-controlled walking cellbot to get some notion of how clever they can actually get.