The Cellbots app for Android was written in Java using the Android SDK, and can be found in the Market today as a free download. The easiest way to try out a Cellbot is to load this app on your Android 2.2 (Froyo) and up phone and then connect to any of the supported robot platforms such as a Roomba or LEGO MINDSTORMS that you may already own. Once connected you can drive the robot using the phone as a remote control or find clever ways to mount the phone directly on the robot to act as the brain. From there you can drive the robot remotely using a web browser on a desktop or mobile device or even run the Cellbots app on a 2nd Android phone for phone-to-phone communications.
The Cellbots Remote Control mode includes a directional pad (D-Pad), a joystick, use of the phone’s accelerometer, and voice controls. These commands get sent over Bluetooth to the robot so the range is limited to 25 feet or so. For unlimited range, mounting the phone to the robot will put it in Brain Mode. Once the phone is connected you’ll have the option of chatting with the robot using Google Talk where you can simply type text messages such as ‘move forward’, ‘stop’, or ‘picture’, and have it obey your command. This means you can talk with your robot from anywhere on the planet that you and the bot can get an internet connection.
Brain Mode also supports a web interface that you can access over the local wifi network to drive the robot with a mouse, touch screen, or keyboard commands. The phone on the robot will also use the camera to stream video to the browser so you can see through its eye from anywhere else on the local network. The Cellbots app will also utilize the phone’s other capabilities such as text-to-speech to talk, take still pictures, get the compass heading, or show a personality on the screen. Doing this allows for robots to be less expensive because your phone can provide all of these great capabilities instead of sitting unused in your pocket.
Try using the web app by starting a shared profile for your robot and use the Custom HTTP method with ‘Use local server’ checked. Then open your browser and type in the IP address you see in the app with /index.html at the end. In my house I’m using http://192.168.1.15:8080/index.html for example.
For users with two Android phones, you can run Cellbots on both of them for Remote Control to Brain Mode over the local network, through Google Talk, or using your own custom web server. This will provide the richest Remote Control UI that exposes an action shelf to quickly send commands to take picture, talk, change personality, or ask for the current compass reading. Try it between friends by sharing your robot profile with them using a QR code to scan right from the Cellbots app.
Android app developers can go ever further by using the source code to add new control UI’s, Brain Mode functions, and support for additional robot platforms. We also can’t wait to see web services connected for the age of Cloud Robotics to begin.