I have been an avid user of Arduino for many years. After mulling around I have decided to launch my own piece of Open Hardware.
I have launched a Kickstarter project(http://goo.gl/Z7FvR (http://goo.gl/Z7FvR)) and even got linked on Hack a Day but support is still tepid. I would appreciate any feedback the Arduino team and community could give especially advice with launching Open Hardware projects.
Here is a summary of my project:
Having seen how easily robotics projects are done with an iCreate, I have wanted to develop a similar platform for outdoor use. I was hoping that iRobot would release a cheaper less durable version of the Packbot or one of its smaller siblings but that doesn't look like it will be happening any time soon.
My initial plans were to design the platform in the same vein as the Packbot with treads and flippers, if not flippers, a versatile tread configuration for climbing objects. But making a cheaper platform with treads looks to be cost and complexity prohibitive. So with all of the MSL-Curiosity rover pictures flying around the web, I have decided to look into a platform based off of the rocker-bogie suspension.
It has been difficult to find detailed specifications of the Curiosity rover but I have come up with a basic design scaling down the platform to about the size of a push lawnmower(a little bit bigger). I have cut out some PVC and will be building a proof of concept just to see if I like the scale.
The end goals are:
- Create a 6 wheel rover.
- Each wheel will have its own motor and controller.
- The Rover will use the rocker-bogie suspension.
- The frame will be made of Aluminum or Steel.
- All documentation will be freely available upon completion of the prototype.
- Release kit and assembled unit similar to Makerbot Industries and Willow Garage if prototype is viable.
Optional elements would be to package a controller(Arduino Mega) that would have some sort of API to provide a basic interface with the motors. Once the platform is finished I can see using a Kinect and ROS to control it.
Good luck with your Kickstarter project.
I'm pursuing a similar project, though bigger (and self-funded). I'm using a PowerWheels Hummer H2 for my base (ultimately, I want to have a final platform using a Polaris ORV - that will depend heavily on available funds at the time, though; I've contemplated just converting my 79 full-size Bronco - heh).
For something closer to the lines of the PackBot - have you seen the MGA Tarantula radio-control toy? I managed to find one (sans transmitter) at a Goodwill a couple of years ago fairly cheap. Unfortunately they are no longer made, but there is still a stock of them out there that people occasionally try to offload via Ebay and such.
For your project, though - for ideas and such vis-a-vis your platform - a good place to get ideas (though most of these are track based - there are some wheeled vehicles):
Another good place is to look at old back-issues of Popular Science (on Google Books) from the late-1950s and early-1960s on 6-wheel ORV machines that were popular in that period. There are many articles, and several with more than enough detail to see how they were constructed.
Also - Parallax used (maybe they still do?) to sell a small robot (about the size you are mentioning) that was a strange "hybrid" vehicle; no suspension, just a skid-steer four-wheel drive platform. It used a small gas engine coupled to a small hydraulic pump, and using solenoid valves, dumped the pressure from the hydraulic system (it was proportional control) into small hydraulic motors which were coupled to the wheels. No transmission or such, just hydraulics. It wasn't cheap - but it wasn't outrageous for what you got, either.
Finally - look up the various papers at Carnegie-Mellon University on the CMU Terragator platform - that might give you some ideas, too.
Good luck! :)