Cellbots are fun to play with for hobbyists, students, or serious developers. To get started you need a robot, and Android phone, and the right software. This guide can help you pick the right match for your skill level and interest.
Pick your robot platform
We have four different robots that work with our most common software options. The easiest out of the box experience is the iRobot Create with a BAM from Element Direct or RooTooth from Sparkfun. With some minor assembly you can try the LEGO MINDSTORMS and with simple tools you can put together something using the VEX Pro (available soon).
If you want to get really advanced you’ll go with a custom robot such as the Arduino based Truckbot or Tankbot. These require some lower level programming and a lot of creativity and possibly soldering. You can get very creating in the shapes and sizes of your robot this way and just need to use the Arduino source file we provide.
Make sure you have a compatible phone
We’ve tested most of our apps on the HTC MyTouch, Motorola Droid, HTC Nexus One, and Samsung Nexus S. As long as the phone is running Android 2.0 or newer it should work with the Bluetooth API’s we use to connect to the robots. Some clever folks have also figured out how to get serial data out of the USB port of some older phones but that tends to be more risky.
There is some classic code for the NRover platform using Nokia phones and we’ve covered the iPhly project for iPhone. The majority of the Cellbots community has leaned towards Android but source code is welcome for any platform.
Software for your skill level
The last thing you need is to decide on the software platform that matches your programming experience. Download our app from the Market and pair to an iRobot or LEGO MINDSTORMS and you can be having fun with no programming at all. Or you can use App Inventor for Android to drag and drop a custom program using just your browser.
We also offer complete source code in both Java and Python for the more advanced programmers out there. Android’s SDK focuses on the Java developers and allows for rich UI’s and maximum use of the available API’s. The Python library uses the Scripting Layer 4 Android and caters to those who want to write a quick script or two for their robot to do something new and fun.
All of the software packages aren’t currently feature compatible but we have used the Java app on one phone as the remote control to drive a Python brain on another. As long as they are passing the same commands over HTTP, XMPP (chat), or Bluetooth, they should all get along nicely.