COTS Bots Project at the University of Idaho

We, students and faculty at the University of Idaho, are designing and building robots according to the COTS principle – e.g. using Commercial Off-The-Shelf products.

Critical design requirements are that the robot be:

  • Affordable (<$500)
  • Easy and quick to assemble (e.g. <30 minutes, no soldering)
  • Computationally powerful
  • Programmable using modern languages and fully featured IDEs.
  • Durable

In meeting these designs we have created robots that are extremely easy to build, program, and use. Further, because the ‘brains’ of the robots are computationally powerful, commercial off-the-shelf products, such as netbooks and cellphones, they have access to powerful third-party libraries and products.

  • Want a robot with sophisticated vision? Use the image processing libraries of your choice.
  • Want a voice controlled robot? Install voice recognition software.
  • Problems with background noise? Use a bluetooth headset.
  • Want your robot to learn? Install your favorite AI toolkit.
  • Want to follow your autonomous robot’s adventures? Stream its webcam and microphone.
  • Want to try stereo-vision? Buy a 3D webcam and plug it into the netbook robot.

The following pages show what we learned and both the successful and not so successful designs. For the most successful designs there are parts lists, build instructions, sample code, and demos to help anyone build and program their own COTS bot.

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