Open Source Hardware Robots

Scientific American has an article about robots using open source hardware and software. The kit, called Telepresence Robot Kit (or TeRK), will offer builders “an entire suite of tools to build their own droids from parts readily available at a hardware store—no soldering or programming required.” TeRK is based on a 5″x1″ box called Qwerk which contains a 200Mhz ARM processor powered by Linux, 32MB SDRAM and another 8MB flash memory, that has 16 servo controllers, and is WiFi-capable and USB 2.0-compliant. It will be priced at $350, much less than it would cost without open-source community development. That’s not the only open-source feature or benefit:

Qwerk even uses a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) to carry out control functions. Unlike normal integrated circuits (which are unalterably etched at the plant), FPGAs can be reconfigured by the user. According to Legrand, this kind of control is unprecedented.

“[TeRK] is not only open from a software perspective, but also from a hardware perspective,” Legrand says. “That’s something this industry has never seen.”

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