We spent some time chatting with Scott Pierce from Spierce Technologies and he showed us his open-source mePed. After selling kits of the open-source meArm project online, Scott decided to create his own robot and came up with the mePed - a slightly creepy and thoroughly fun quadruped robot! This Arduino-based robot is open-source so you can either buy it from Scott or build it yourself from scratch, and either way, you can modify it to your heart’s delight.
We talked about it after the interview, unfortunately, but the software development was a great story. Scott built the software for the movement and posted it online where it was updated by a gentleman in Russia who decided to sell the mePed there. After this, Scott further refined the code to give its extremely smooth gait. It’s a great example of the benefit of open-source where they worked together and made an even better, smoother walking mePed, benefitting both of them. Check out Scott’s projects at https://www.spiercetech.com/shop/.
Scott: I’ve been a maker for a long time, I really enjoy robotics, and I’m enthusiastic about getting other people into robotics. And so, I designed the the mePed Robot, which is a quadruped robot. It has an Arduino microcontroller on it and an ultrasonic range sensor. It’s controlled out of the box through an infrared remote control, and the entire design from the hardware to the software is open source so you can download the laser cut files or 3d printable files to print out your own body. The circuitboard is a custom circuitboard that I designed to break out nine servos, a WiFi module, and a Bluetooth module. It's based on an Arduino Nano. I wanted to build a low cost kit that people could get started in robotics with.
Josh: So what was the inspiration to even start in this process?
Scott: I have a laser cutter and I was on Thingiverse one day and ran across Ben Gray's MeArm project and I always wanted a robotic arm so I downloaded the files cut one out and loved it. I noticed Ben wasn't selling them in the U.S. so I started building kits and selling them. Since I was making money off of an open source project, I wanted to give back and and so I designed the mePed as an open source project. Companies in China, Russia, India, Canada and Mexico are all building and selling mePed kits as well.
Josh: It’s pretty awesome. Can we see it in action?
Scott: Absolutely. We have an infrared remote and so out of the box it's a remote control robot so you can make it move forward and back and left and right. You can make it wave, take a bow and and then also make it dance. So that's the core functionality out of the box. But then from there you can download our sample source code off of our website and hack it and interface it with Bluetooth, WiFi and other sensors to make it do more as well.
Josh: Awesome. Would you mind just going a little bit more in depth on the hardware that you have made here, the electronic hardware?
Scott: Okay, sure. So the the electronics we have: ultrasonic range sensor, infrared remote and sensor, Arduino Nano microcontroller, then this is our own custom circuitboard that that ties it all together and makes it easy to interface with the eight servos. It runs on four double-AA batteries, and so those are tucked under there. It has eight MG 90S metal gear servos – one to pivot the leg and one to raise and lower the leg. And then the whole body is laser-cut out of MDF wood.
Josh: Excellent. So what expansion do you have? You're showing the things that it can do out of the box, but you can add things to it as well, right?
Scott: Correct. You can add the WiFi module and Bluetooth module so it can communicate with a cell phone and it also has an I2C port so that you can daisy chain up to 255 devices on that port. Say you wanted to add four light sensors to it, one on each side of the robot. You can measure the values of light on each of those sensors and make it either walk towards the light or walk away from light stuff like that.