The idea of using a robotic dock for iPhone and iPod is not new. Back in 2009, a robot hobbyist has developed a humanoid robot named Robochan which head was an iPhone 3GS (see Video 1). The iPhone acted as a screen that displays different facial expressions. It also plays the role of the robot controller and provided some fun features such as a robotic alarm clock. The robot then can wake the user up
Video 1: Robochan humanoid robot which head is an iPhone 3GS
Folks from cellbots experimented with Android-based smartphones to control robots since 2010. They provide a great amount of materials for the building the hardware (both mechanics and electronics), as well as for the software. Video 2 shows two of their wheeled robots and demos how they used the smartphone’s features such as the compass or the text to speech.
Video 2: Cellbot a wheeled robots controlled by Android phones
The idea of a robotic dock has been turned into commercial robots showcased at CES 2012. A crowd funded startup named Romotive presented the first version of its Romo. Video 3 presents the second version that will be shipped by june 2013. It features a polished design and a servo that allows tilting the iPhone back and forth. Very useful for tele-presence or remote surveillance applications. We love the graphical design and animations of the face displayed on the screen. It’s so cute! Last, Romo comes with web API that makes it ready for software hacks. If you want to reserve one, it will cost you less than $ 150, plus $ 50 more for shipping outside of the US.
Video 3: The second version of Romo
Another commercial robotic dock is SmartBot by a startup named Overdrive Robotics (see Video 4). It was presented at the Innorobo 2013 event (19-21 march 2013, Lyon, France). Although it seems more recent than Romo, SmartBot is already available for sell for about $200 (160 Euros). The higher price is mitigated by a few extra components (wheel encoders, NFC memory, speaker) and an advanced support for hackers. SmartBot was designed to support extra accessories. It provides different ports, including an Arduino compatible one.
Video 4: SmartBot by Overdrive Robotics
The last robotic dock we will be discussing in this post is by Wowee, the toys manufacturer that employs Mark Tilden the inventor of Beam Robotics. Wowee is well known among robotics hobbyists for several robotic toys such as RoboSapiens, FemiSapiens, and RoboRaptor to name a few. The next one on the list is RoboMe, a wheeled smartphone dock robot with two arms. Video 5 shows a preview of RoboMe at Toy Fair 2013.
Video 5: RoboMe Preview at Toy Fair 2013