Jarvis – The birth of a robot

Over ten years ago, I started to build a robot as a bit of a challenge. I started with a simple tracked robot that I put together from parts in a kit, after a little computer control interfacing with a motor controller, it could pootle about the house controlled by a remote PC or a an Xbox controller. It was fun, and in the pre-Arduino world it was a challenge indeed. It was small and limited by its size, but a great way to start. Because of the limitations, it was clear that Jarvis needed to grow so I started looking for ways to do just that.

Jarvis MK1 – Used a Samsung NP Q1 for a brain, and a webcam for eyes

With some help from my teacher brother, I was able to laser cut some plastic to scale up Jarvis’s body. with the increased size I was able to add some components, I used a kinect for eyes, a better motor controller and the tablet was able to fit landscape. There was also a lot more room for batteries

Jarvis MK2 – Kinect Vision

It truly was astounding what the Kinect can provide in terms of visual information. It can do visual, depth sensing, skeletal tracking.

Jarvis’s (right) depth vision from the Kinect.

All in a small form factor. Jarvis taught me a lot about design, and even after he was put away in a box for a long time, I have always wanted to come back to him and pick up where I left off.

Jarvis MK2 – Electronics were hidden in a pull out drawer for easy access and tidiness

Even MK2 Jarvis with all his improvements still needed more work. His low chassis left him beached on even the smallest obstacles. His tracks – as useful as they were for climbing and stairs, were loud and clunky. The plastic was struggling to keep up with his size and needed some reinforcement to stop it from flexing and he really needed some sort of suspension or flexibility, for all he was at the time, he needed some thoughtful upgrades. I was – and still am immensely proud of my little creation, and I’ve always wanted to revisit him.