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Smartipresence: An Affordable, Accessible Telepresence Robot

Smartipresence robot kits
(Image credit: Altrubots / The Craft Robot)

Telepresence robots, such as those used by Dr Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory are expensive and difficult to build. Altrubots and The Crafty Robot today launched their own desktop telepresence robot via Kickstarter with pledges starting from $62 (£50).

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Smartipresence robot kits

(Image credit: Altrubots / The Craft Robot)
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Smartipresence robot kits

(Image credit: Altrubots / The Craft Robot)
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Smartipresence robot kits

(Image credit: Altrubots / The Craft Robot)
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Smartipresence robot kits

(Image credit: Altrubots / The Craft Robot)

Smartipresence is a cardboard chassis robot that uses rubber bands and screws for a simple yet robust construction. Place your smartphone into the articulated holder and then connect it to the Smartibot NRF 52 series ARM Cortex-M4F control board via Bluetooth. Remote control is achieved by sending a “pilot link” to another device and then we can stream video from the pilot device, to the Smartipresence. Control is achieved using on screen buttons, we can move the robot in any direction and control the angle of the arm. 

The Espruino JavaScript web interface

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Writing code for the robot is made possible thanks to a version of JavaScript for microcontrollers called Espruino. Younger coders can learn to control the robot using a block based language, while seasoned coders can get to  grips with JavaScript directly. Both methods are via a web browser, enabling quick and easy access no matter what device we are using.

Smartipresence robot kits

(Image credit: Altrubots / The Craft Robot)

UK readers may be familiar with Ross Atkin, a researcher, designer and engineer, who featured in BBC’s “The Big Life Fix” where inventors and engineers developed life changing solutions for people in desperate need. “It’s awful not being able to visit loved ones right now and I wanted to make something to help” explained Ross Atkin. “I thought telepresence might be useful, but not the robots designed for corporate environments that cost thousands. I realized that the Smartibot kit already had most of the parts you’d need to make a really accessible telepresence robot that would work in people’s homes. So I designed the extra cardboard parts to make the experience as good as it could be, and worked with Altrubots to put together the software. It’s turned out great. It’s not quite as good as actually being somewhere but it’s a whole lot better than a video call.”

Smartipresence robot kits

(Image credit: Altrubots / The Craft Robot)

The kit contains everything needed to create your own telepresence robot, including DC motors so all we need to add is a spare smartphone. You can pick up your own robot directly from their page on Kickstarter.