ARCO Combines RC Robotics Learning Platform and AR
Tom Spendlove posted on September 13, 2018 |

When the engineers at HICAT were finishing their industrial design course, they wanted to build a device that could give a great first person view experience remotely. The ideal design state was a monitoring device for a dog that could act as a visual monitor, temperature monitor, and show accelerometer data to give an indication of the dog’s behavior. At the time the best available technology was an IP camera attached to an Arduino board, but after the group graduated they kept working on the idea and began to develop machine vision applications for small robots. HICAT is back with its second crowdfunding robotics platform ARCO, a robot using augmented reality and gaming to teach robotics and coding.

ARCO is a small vehicular robot with a small remote that drives the car forward, backward, or through turns. The controller contains an accelerometer, trigger, and rocker switch to give the user capabilities in the AR game world. The system is compatible with Apple ARkit and Google ARCore, and AR glasses are available for the app on a user’s phone or the user can hold the phone. Ten RGB LED lights are installed on the robot’s perimeter and can be programmed through the app. The robot and the controller use Nordic’s NRF52 chips, and the current plan is to release the application programming interface to allow users to have control of motors, sensors and LEDS. Two serial communication ports will also accept external sensors for future expansion, and MAP editor for the AR applications will also be released. The ARCO bot weights 180 grams with a size of 8.9 x 7 x 6.5 centimeters, and the controller weighs around 50 grams with a size of 5.2 x 3.3 x 2.5 centimeters. The battery for both is expected to last an hour and uses USB-C for charging.

Medium published a great article from Joseph Wang about the methods used to develop and release the group’s first project, Livera. It’s interesting that this new project still focuses on education, programming and robotics but I’d like to see more options for customization. I really like the design of the robotics, to me it looks like a cross between a military vehicle and an extraterrestrial rover. The AR on the campaign page also has great visuals, a good mix between the children targeted by this educational robotics platform and angular stylized space art. There's a huge crowded market full of robotics and coding education products and a smaller market of AR racing toys. I'm interested in seeing where ARCO fits in over the next few years. This campaign ends on October 16 and if successful the current timing for first units is April 2019.



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