Now We Can All Build A SpotMicro
Sunday, 23 August 2020

Spot, Boston Dynamics' dog robot, ok quadruped, is impressive, but expensive. It seems the maker community can't wait for the price to fall. Now we can all build our own SpotMicro.

Various people have put together small demo robots that mimic Spot, but the effort is very great and they don't seem to get much beyond simple walking - and sometimes not even that. It's difficult. I'm not trying to be dismissive. However, things got quite a bit easier when Deok-Yeon Kim posted 3D printer files to Thingiverse.

Suddenly you could print out a SpotMicro, add some servos, a servo controller, a processor and sensors and you could concentrate on programming it. This is still a difficult task, but nothing like having to start from scratch designing your own mechanism.

spotmicro3d

If you go to YouTube and search for SpotMicro you will find a number of videos showing completed robots. The one that attracted my attention was built by Michael Romanko. What is special about this version is that it has a Raspberry Pi as its brain.The original uses an Arduino and the printer files have to be changed to accommodate a Pi.

The important thing about installing a Pi is that you can easily fit Ubuntu, complete with a version of ROS (Robot Operating System). For most robot builders, ROS is the way to go and it makes development of software easier. I wouldn't say easy, it's still a challenge. The ROS nodes have been written in C++ and Python. You can see it in action in the video:

This code is capable of keyboard control of a SpotMicro robot with sit, stand, angle command, and walk capability. What is good about this is that the code is on GitHub, so you now have not just a help getting started with the mechanical problems, but with the software as well.  The hardware is based on a Pi 3 and this seems to have problems with shortage of memory - a Pi 4 might well solve the problem, as long as the increased power consumption can be tolerated.

This looks like a good platform for further experimentation and even for practical work such as room mapping and exploration. If you have always wanted a Spot you really don't have much excuse for not building one.

This is what open source is all about.

  • Harry Fairhead is the author of Raspberry Pi IoT in C, in which he looks at the challenges of combining the Raspberry Pi with electronics.  

More Information

SpotMicro AI community

SpotMicro on GitHub

SpotMicro on Thingiverse

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 23 August 2020 )