RoadTest: Rapiro - Programmable DIY Robot Kit
Evaluation Type: Independent Products
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: null
What were the biggest problems encountered?: Initial servo configuration; The motors would contort the robot into an awkward position if you didn't provide enough current, Looking for a proper power supply was also quite difficult
The RAPIRO perfectly suits its billing as a "Cute, Affordable programmable DIY Robot Kit", although there is a lot of room for improvement as well, which is a good thing. The range of motion of the arms and legs can be modified to make it move more efficiently. This page leads to the source files for the kit, free for modifications and tweaks:
A wiki page has been created as sort of a database for any information regarding the robot which can be seen here:
I won't go into much detail about the specifics of the product, but rather my own experiences. Those have already been covered in this review by Todd Cowley:
Misc. specifications can be found here:
A. Problems Encountered and Possible Solutions
As I have previously detailed in my blog post which can be found here: Rapiro: Optimizing the Pi to interface with the Robot (For Absolute Beginners)
Troubleshooting can be quite tedious. The first problem I had when I first assembled the robot was with the batteries. I tried out a couple of old rechargeable ones but they all seemed too weak to power the bot, so I resorted to purchasing the recommended brand: Sanyo Eneloop Ni-MH. The power supply was also quite hard to find because of the minimum current it had to produce. I ended up purchasing an AC/DC Switching 12v power supply that produces a current of 6000mAH. I've been using it for 2 months now and there haven't been any problems with it so far. After that, fixing the program for servo configuration was pretty much straightforward. In the blog post above, I went into detail about how the servos can adjusted. According to the manufacturer, any more than 23 degrees would require re-assembly so as not to damage the motor. The code is part of a bigger code that fixes up the robot and interfaces with the board for you once you upload it. I didn't want to tinker with the code too much given the amount of virtual memory it consumes, so I tried to work out my real-life applications with the readily available functions. It is pretty easy to work with once you're past the power problem.
The 0's can be replaced with a number to adjust accordingly. Once the program has been uploaded, you can try to turn it off, change its position a bit and see if the robot returns to the configured position.
At one point, one of my servos went bad and had to be replaced. Luckily, Kiluck Corporation's customer service is very accommodating and they tend to you rather fast. I contacted them via: firstname.lastname@example.org and my replacement motor came within a few days. That being said, I think they could opt for more durable types of motors as the ones provided seem to be a bit fragile.
B. My review
When I first received the product, I was very excited about the things I could do with it. I was not disappointed in the least bit. There are numerous things you can do with the kit and your imagination is your limit. I have seen a lot of great projects that utilized third-party applications, and plan on giving it voice-recognition capabilities with Jasper (see: Meet Jasper: open-source voice computing | Raspberry Pi). I have seen the camera module being utilized for facial recognition as well as the integration with the Twilio application. Right now, I am using my Rapiro as a mini WiFi enabled surveillance cam that roams around the house, moving it around with a PS3 dualshock controller.
At they have iterated, the RAPIRO is not just simply a toy, it is an educational DIY kit that is excellent for learning about the applications of the Raspberry Pi. Couple that with the RAPIRO board being Arduino IDE compatible, and you have yourself a nifty, powerful device. While I did have some minor trouble at the beginning, It was all worth it as I was able to fully utilize my Raspberry Pi which up until this point was basically just a computer for me. I was able to apply what I've learned so far in almost all aspects of programming, utilized it and put them into motion with the robot. With the body parts being open source, I believe that a lot of people can make significant improvements to the robot. Right now, motion is limited and it takes quite a while for it to walk a couple of centimeters. I would suggest more powerful and durable motors so they don't easily break and the fluidity of motion can be increased. This kit is perfect to teach children about the Pi and to get them interested in the field of robotics, and at the same time adults and teenagers will also find it worthwhile to create practical uses for the robot using their knowledge of the Pi and the Arduino. Basically it uses the Raspberry Pi as its brain, and an arduino-compatible board as the motor controller. There are endless possibilities for it just by that fact alone!
Building the robot took about 2 and a half hours and the instructions were quite easy to follow. The electronics didn't require any soldering, as was advertised. Compared to other available robotics kits, nothing comes close to this one as the Pi is open source and a great learning platform. The community for this product is already growing. I expect to see more projects in the long run that will be of help to us even in the simplest of ways. There's no doubt that this kit can provide a gateway for that as it is a fun learning experience. It is perfect for robotics enthusiasts that want to go into open source hardware at the same time. It's definitely competitive for its price. At $450, not many kits can have that many uses given the fact that they don't use such a flexible device for a brain. While I don't see it as a cleaning device or a coffee maker (as seen in the introduction video), It isn't really a problem as there are tons of other things that you can do with it. The only thing I would like to change is how it walks, so I'll try to modify the source files to create a more efficient system.
A minor problem was that if the batteries ran low, the Pi would shut down abruptly, and that increases the chances of memory loss and data corruption. In my case, since I plan to use the RAPIRO with wifi enabled almost 100% of the time, I found a solution to prevent anything from happening to it. Using a script, the Pi will automatically shut down or reboot (Depends on you) when internet connectivity is lost. More details can be found here: Easy Wireless Configuration for Raspberry Pi (wicd) : The Unwritten Words
Initial integration with the Pi was pretty simple as well, besides the fact that it was time consuming if you haven't already done a few of the basic Pi configurations such as enabling Wifi, SSH and the camera module.
One important thing I've learned is that any time you use the RAPIRO board with the Pi's GPIO, the serial console has to be disabled for them to communicate properly. See this link for more details: http://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=55043
Overall, there is a lot left for me to explore with the kit. I have yet to test out the use of speakers or microphones, or sensors at this point. It has been an amazing experience so far and I am fortunate enough to be one of the first to own one of these kits.
C .Future Projects
My journey with the RAPIRO doesn't end with this review. I intend to use it to its fullest potential and create things that will be of help. I plan on learning about the Jasper voice recognition module to integrate with the robot, as well as the Twilio phone application. Currently, I'm in the process of creating a UI for my iPhone as a remote control. I also intend to use it as a means to attract customers during exhibits (our family business) to hand out small objects such as flyers and calling cards. I will probably think of a lot more in the process as I learn and improve on my craft. I will be periodically updating my blog whenever I come up with something new for the RAPIRO, so please do check it out every once in a while.
Here is the end product I want to come up with right now:
Thank you, element14, for the opportunity, and I hope to be able to test out a couple more of your exciting products in the future!
Total score: 58/60
Thanks Russ the review mentioned is at http://www.element14.com/community/roadTestReviews/1746 you did a great job here keep it up and keep me posted.