Robot Invasion

Posted 4 Jun 2003 at 19:21 UTC by steve Share This

Bill Boyer of the Dallas Personal Robotics Group provided this review of Robot Invasion , a book from McGraw-Hill Osborne Media. The book contains a variety of well-illustrated robotics projects for the beginner intended to be very easy to build. Several of the projects are based on Lego Mindstorms while others require readily available materials.
Review by Bill Boyer

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Title: Robot Invasion

Author: Dave Johnson

ISBN Number: 0-07-222640-4

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Osborne Media

Number of Pages: 208

List of Chapters:
A World of Robots
Project 1 -- Robot Racers
Project 2 -- Collision Avoidance Bot
Project 3 -- MindStorms Combat Robots
Project 4 -- Your Own Mars Pathfinder
Project 5 -- Combat on the Computer Screen
Project 6 -- Remote-Controlled VideoBot
Project 7 -- The Robot Arm

Compared to many of the personal robotic books I have read in the last few years, Robot Invasion is a bit off-the-wall. It offers some unique projects biased slightly towards Lego MindStorms, with several other unusual projects thrown in for good measure. Each project is explained in detail, with step-by-step instructions, code examples and suggestions for modifying or improving the project beyond the scope of the book.

It begins, as most robot books do, with the history and romance of robotics. It quotes Asimov and explains the broad variations in the definition of a robot, citing examples such as the Mars Pathfinder, Battlebots, Aibo, and even software robots that perform web searches. The introduction also identifies and briefly explains the four major parts of a robot - the base, processor, actuators and sensors. Fortunately, the meat of the book is the projects.

Projects 1, 3 and 7 are based on the MindStorms Robotic Invention System 2.0, and guide the reader with detailed, step-by-step construction photos, as well as screen shots of the actual RIS programming involved. These projects include a robot which finds and pushes a cargo box along a curvy line and into a hole in the playing surface, a junior BattleBot contender which counts the blows it delivers to its opponent, and a robotic arm which can identify objects by color, pick them up, and stack them in two separate piles.

Project 2 explains two different methods for building an Erector-based robot which reverses its direction when it bumps into an object. The chapter covers construction with both the old and new erector sets, using step-by-step construction details. While this project is very simple as far as robots go, its a building block for understanding a much more complex robotic concept, how an H-bridge works.

Project 4 is one of the more unusual projects in the book -- building a solar-powered rover which is launched in a rocket, returns to earth by parachute, lands upright, releases the parachute and drives away. This sounds way more complicated than it is, once you see the novel approach the author uses.

Project 5 delves into the realm of virtual robots with a well-written tutorial on AT Robots version 3. These are virtual combat robots programmed in an assembly-like language, which fight in an arena on your computer screen. This is by far the most complicated project in the book, and will take more than a few hours of work to design and build your own robot.

Project 6 is not so much robotic as it is a remote operated vehicle. A digital camera with a video output is mounted to an inexpensive radio-controlled car. Video is sent to a monitor via a tether and the operator must drive the car strictly by viewing the monitor. The chapter gives an example of how to set up a wireless video transmitter and suggests driving the car through a maze, seeking hidden objects or doing battle with another similar robot.

In a nutshell, if you already own a Lego MindStorms set or are looking for some unusual, yet fairly simple robotics projects, this book is for you. If you are an experienced robot builder with a few from-scratch robots under your belt, you may find the materials and presentation too elementary for your tastes.

I'd check out the used books myself, posted 6 Jun 2003 at 14:25 UTC by earlwb » (Master)

I'd check out the used books first. That way you either feel like you got a good deal if you like the book, or you don't feel so ripped off if you don't like the book.

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