Eric Gregori started building robots at eight, and continues his passion/obsession today as the Embedded Firmware Product Specialist at Freescale Semiconductors. Because Freescale is into selling silicon and Eric is into robotics, it seems as though he’s one of the lucky few people that get paid for what they would otherwise do for free.
Eric’s latest project is extending his RobotSee software platform to work with the new robot from Freescale: the Freescale Tower Mechatronic Robot. RobotSee is a free, open source robotics toolkit that works with Windows, the Chumby, Android tablets, and phones, and Linux. As you might expect, RobotSee provides a vision toolkit that includes features such as face recognition. Moreover, the toolkit — which uses an easy-to-use language with similarities to both C and Basic — supports voice recognition, speech synthesis, GPS navigation, and even an interface to those affordable brain-machine interfaces that are on the market.
The Freescale Tower Mechatronic Robot (which I’ll refer to as simply ‘Mech’) is Freescale’s first entry in the market targeting robotics enthusiasts. At $199, Freescale is positioning the robot as the next step up from robots based on the Stamp or Arduino. The basic board — which goes for $99 — uses a MC52259 32-bit microcontroller with 64K RAM and 512K Flash. It has space for two plug-in daughter boards, including a $25 magnetometer or compass and a $99 three-axis accelerometer. There’s also a pair of USB connectors, analog and digital I/O, I2C, SPI, and even a legacy RS-232 port. Development software includes free versions of CodeWarrior and RobotSee. In terms of difficulty, RobotSee is just a bit more challenging than, say, programming the BASIC Stamp. CodeWarrior, on the other hand, requires modest familiarity with C/C++ programming, and doesn’t come with built-in libraries for vision, speech, voice, and the rest.