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Bot and Paid For

May 12th, 2017

Xenophobia Goes High Tech

Today I got a text regarding my godson, Noah. I sent him some birthday junk, and his mom sent a photo of him with an earlier gift. It’s a plastic dinosaur. She says it’s his favorite. It’s a good sign. A boy should like dinosaurs. Now if I can start getting him into war toys and explosives…

Here he is. I’m disappointed he hasn’t broken it yet. Boys are supposed to break things.

He looks like an angry teenager in that picture, but he’s actually three.

It got me thinking about my own toy situation. I don’t have a single toy dinosaur, so I’m jealous. I do have a couple of mini drones with broken propellers, but they’re grounded until new parts arrive.

A while back, I started learning C+ and Arduino, and I planned to make or buy a balancing robot to program. I forgot about it, and now I’m thinking about it again. Computer programming gets dull when all you do is make LED’s blink or force a PC to do really useless math problems (“Uncle Steve has 3,512 cookies in the pantry, and they will take 403 earth days to eat.”) I wanted to program something that DOES something.

If I were to build my own robot, the project itself would take over, and a year from now, I’d still be procrastinating. I decided the best thing was to find a robot that works and buy all the parts. Once I’ve put someone else’s kit together and programmed it, which should take less than a day, future bots will come much easier.

The bot I chose is the B-robot, which, I hope, is pronounced “bro-bot.” There are lots of balancing robots out there, but almost all of them stink. They wobble. They can’t right themselves. There are videos of the B-robot zipping around with grace and certainty, so I know it works.

You can also get tracked robots (like little bulldozers), and there are plenty of wheeled robots. They don’t do much for me. They’re too hard to anthropomorphize. I want a robot that acts more like a person, and people don’t crawl around like bugs. Most of the time.

The B-robot comes with 3D-printed chassis parts. I am not all that happy about that, because 3D-printed plastic is flimsy, but they only add $25 to the cost, and it beats spending a week making stuff in the garage. I could find a local 3D print shop and have them make the parts, but no way would that cost less than $25, so I bit the bullet. I can always replace parts later, at my leisure.

I’m hoping the upper parts will be orange, so I can have a Trumpbot. I’ll add a voice thing that yells, “BUILD THE WALL!”, and, “YUUUUUUUUGE!!!” whenever the robot sees someone. The people who make the kit are in California, so they would probably poop biodegradable soy bricks if they saw their bot acting like Trump, but that’s not my problem. I’m making robots great again.

I could add another robot later. I could call him “Juan,” and Trumpbot could chase him around threatening to deport him.

Me: Trump-bro! Bro-Trump! Stop bashing Juan with your plastic putter! No es bueno! Play nice or I’ll release the Fauxcahontas droid!

Trump-bro: Pay for the wall, Juan! Pay for the wall!

Juan: ¡Ay chihuahua! ¡Ayúdame!! ¡Es un Meecroaggression!!!

Trump-bro: STOP TURNING YOUR EXCLAMATION POINTS UPSIDE-DOWN!

I don’t know for sure, but I assume the electronics on the B-robot would scale up to larger robots. The electronics sense the bot’s deviation from vertical and correct for it, and they move him around. That ought to work with a 10-ton robot, as long as you have the right boards and the right steppers or servos. Balancing gets easier as the height of a robot increases. It works for fat cops on Segways, doesn’t it?

I need to build a giant Mecha-Trump to patrol my future Armed Northern Florida Compound. I don’t think it would scare anyone up there, though. They would jump the fence and pose for selfies with it.

Think how neat it would be to have a big robot. You could get a big ol’ lithium battery to power it. Make it the size of a Coke machine. I wonder if it could be rigged with paintball or a full-automatic CO2 BB gun. I might be able to make it shoot products Trump used to advertise.

Me: TRUMP-BRO! ALERT! ALERT! A POSSUM HAS BREACHED THE BORDER WALL! COMMENCE DEPORTATION PROCEDURES!

Trump-bro: Roger that, Steve-O! Oreo cannon locked on target!

Me: Hit him with the Double Stufs!! And don’t call me Steve-O!

Trump-bro: Attention, possum! YOU’RE FIRED!! [POOMP! POOMP! POOMP! POOMP!]

Possum: ¿Qué va?

I could also make a cowardly Antifa bot which runs up and attacks the Trump bot from behind while wearing a mask.

The coolest balancing robots move in two dimensions. That means they can’t have axles. A 2-axis balancing robot has to have a ball for a drive surface, so they’re called “ballbots.” They’re very cool, but obviously, they can’t keep debris away from their drivetrains. The ball has to be able to rotate up into the bot, where it necessarily contacts the motors that drive it. I don’t think that would work outdoors, except on concrete.

I guess a two-wheeled robot could do nearly anything a ballbot could do, if you could teach it to turn in place.

In reality, I will probably be lucky to make Trump-bro roll around the living room without breaking anything. If I could do that, I’d put it on Youtube immediately.

I probably posed a video of the B-robot already, but here it is anyway. I think I’ll post a video of a ballbot, too, to show you the difference.

B-robot:

Ballbot:

If I get anywhere with this, I’ll let you know.

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