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The Personal Rover Project
Head: Illah Nourbakhsh
Contact: Illah Nourbakhsh
Mailing address:
Carnegie Mellon University
Robotics Institute
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Project Homepage
Overview
The Personal Rover is a 18"x12"x24" highly autonomous, programmable robot. It is designed to be a fun way for children and adults to learn about the technology needed for scientific exploration such as that done by NASA's Mars Rover. By offering a low-cost, robust robot, we hope to make robotics accessible to the non-roboticist public. The rover will introduce robots into the home as an outlet for creativity and a means for scientific exploration.

One of our goals in designing the rover was to create a robot that could autonomously navigate in the dynamic environment of the home. To that effect we use a visual navigation system dependent on static landmarks. The rover can also climb stairs. See the Robot section for more specific information on the rover's architecture as well as videos of stair climbing.

Another goal in designing the rover was to create a user interface that would be easy to use without limiting creativity and that would draw the user in over an extended period of time. There are multiple sections to this interface. One allows the user to teach the rover paths around the home using the rover's visual navigation. Another lets users create missions and experiments by combining simple actions and previously taught paths.

A simple version of the rover, called a Trikebot, was used in Summer 2002 to teach a robotics course for 30 high school students in California. The trikebot does not have the ability to climb stairs like the rover does, but it has the same vision system. At the end of the course, the students took their trikebots home. We are conducting an educational study to see how they continue to use the trikebots now that the course is over.