Petunia Tech Develops WiSoccero, a Soccer Playing Robot

WiSoccero uses the company's WiLoader board to add soccer functionality to Arduino.

Engineers at Petunia Tech are passionate about spreading their love of robotics, but realize that the field can be challenging. Electronics, programming and mechanical hurdles can each prove to be difficult to someone starting out. The team’s solution for engagement and education is WiSoccero, a robot that plays soccer. The bots have omnidirectional wheels that allow them to move intuitively, and a ram mechanism that lets the robot hold or kick a small soccer ball.

WiSoccero is powered by a controller using an Xbox 360 shell and minimal components to wirelessly tell the robot what to do and where to go. Two gyro sensors tell the robot exactly where it is in space and give the user a visual for the ‘front’ of the machine. Three DC motors drive the wheels and LEDs add flair to the system. The big selling point for the robots, however, is the WiLoader, a communication module that Petunia Tech has developed to add functionality to Arduino boards.

WiLoader connects to a wireless network and beams your programs to the WiSoccero robots or any WiLoader equipped machine. The system takes advantage of Arduino’s open source philosophy and builds its own programming layers to control the robots. The campaign page says that an app is also being developed and shows several screens for controlling the robots, compatible with iOS and Android. At this time the app does not yet appear to be released. The page also points out a strong commitment to open source hardware and software, with the expectation that the superusers of WiLoader will bring new functionality to the system.

The robot itself looks like a great tool to teach programming and robotics, but there are some odd things about the campaign. This is a second run after a first crowdfunding round failed to fund the WiLoader on more traditional robot carriages. There’s a definite language barrier here from this team of mostly Chinese engineers, but the app doesn’t seem very well developed for a product that is due out in June. One of the app graphics even spells its own name incorrectly. Pushing robotics, programming and single board computing is an excellent and noble goal and I hope that the engineers at Petunia Tech meet their funding goal by March 10.