Newbie building a robot for a film project— Advice needed on parts!

Hi guys,
I'm a filmmaker, not a robot expert, although I'm looking forward to learning some robotics. I have never been very good at or had any interest in electronics until just recently.
I'm working on a film project and need a rover-type robot that is remote controlled, and looks cool. I'd considered getting an rc car and stripping the body off of it, but I just don't like the look.

I need the robot to:
move in any direction
move over rocks and gravel
be able to be controlled with my iPhone

I don't need it to do anything special like detect IR light or learn or draw me a picture or flash pretty lights. Ok, the lights would be cool.

I have a small budget and need to make sure I have the proper list of parts. Here is what I've spec'd out:

  1. Starter Kit for Newsite Uno R3 - Bundle of 6 Items: Newsite Uno R3, Breadboard, Holder, Jumper Wires, USB Cable and 9V Battery Connector
  2. 4 Wheel Drive (4WD) Arduino Robot Platform (comes with 4 motors)
  3. I have access to a book for Arduino beginners

Other info:
I work on a Mac.

Are there other things I'll need? A soldering kit? Can anyone recommend an iPhone app that would be good to control my robot?

I can see myself adding some neat things to this later, but for now, I have a budget and a deadline, and could use some really simple, helpful tips to get a basic, rc robot.
Thanks!

Why complicate things with a processor and uncertain control system?
Why not just use standard R/C gear?
That's what the pros use.

AWOL's correct an RC skid steer (tank or any thing that does not use front wheel steering - much easier to control) and add a "cool" new outer shell.

Mark

Are you saying it isn't possible to create a robot that can follow basic commands like, turn, move forward, move backward, and stop, from a wireless device like an iPhone with arduino?

I've already gone down the rc car route. It isn't at all the direction I want to go in. That was only good enough for a concept video.

Are you saying it isn't possible to create a robot that can follow basic commands like, turn, move forward, move backward, and stop, from a wireless device like an iPhone with arduino?

No, I'm certainly not saying that, but for film, reliability, cost and repeatability are paramount.

I've already gone down the rc car route.

So, try an R/C tank.

OK, let's forget that I'm doing this for a film. I'm just going to build a robot.

I would like to build a robot that will take simple commands from my iphone. I've seen other projects that were controlled either by android or iphone. Would the parts I listed in my first post be what I need to get started, does anyone have recommendations as far as which iPhone app is the best one to use?

Thanks

Do you really need control from an iphone? It can be done but....., control from a laptop over WiFi or XBee is easier.

Is the 4WD body a robot 5 body. If so what motor control shield do you wish to use?. If it only powers 2 of the motors then you need to disconnect the other 2 from the wheels tracks not just from the electronics.

Mark

Do you really need control from an iphone? It can be done but....., control from a laptop over WiFi or XBee is easier.

Is the 4WD body a robot 5 body. If so what motor control shield do you wish to use?. If it only powers 2 of the motors then you need to disconnect the other 2 from the wheels tracks not just from the electronics.

Mark,
I will likely be in an area where wifi will be difficult or totally impossible to use— middle of the desert. That's why I had hoped for iPhone control. What is XBee? If that's a better option, I'm open to suggestions. As for the shields, I'm sorry for my total robotics ignorance (I'm working on it, but this is my first robot), but is a shield another component I need along with the arduino Uno R3? What shield would you recommend to power all 4 wheels?

I will likely be in an area where wifi will be difficult or totally impossible to use— middle of the desert.

Wrong! WiFi from a laptop to a bot will work any where. laptop has a TX/RX unit so does the 'bot. No Cafe or router required! Range about 30ft (must check may be 30m). Xbee very like WiFi but has greater range and can't interwork with WiFi and you need two XBee modules, one for the laptop and one for the 'bot. Look at the wireless/SD shield in the products section of this site. A WiFly module can be used in place of the XBee module if you wish. WiFi has a lower cost.

With an Uno controlling your 'bot you can add thinks like moving "eyes", flashing lights, strange sounds, a wagging tail and lots more!

Mark

Awesome! Thanks! I would love to keep adding functions on to this thing. I can see this being a project that grows and grows.

I was also skimming through the copy of Michael Margolis' Arduino Cookbook, and saw that it would be possible to use IR and a tv remote. What do you think of that? Pain-in-the-neck or fairly easy? That might be another way to go.

The IR remote is very directional and will have very limited range and so could be very difficult to keep out of shot!

Mark.

PS I'm now over the drink typing limit so going to bed. Back in 15 hours (sleep and work).

M

The specifics of this project are way too vague to currently spend a lot of effort on. Some questions:

  1. How much $$$ do you have to spend on your project?
  2. How big does the bot need to be?
  3. Specifically what does the bot need to be able to do?
  4. Specifically how does the bot need to be controlled?
  5. Over what distance/conditions does the bot need to be controlled?
  6. Does the bot require quick or smooth movement?

The specifics of this project are way too vague to currently spend a lot of effort on. Some questions:

  1. How much $$$ do you have to spend on your project?
  2. How big does the bot need to be?
  3. Specifically what does the bot need to be able to do?
  4. Specifically how does the bot need to be controlled?
  5. Over what distance/conditions does the bot need to be controlled?
  6. Does the bot require quick or smooth movement?
  1. Right now $100
  2. About shoebox size. Here's the platform I want: Amazon.com
  3. Move forward, backward, turn, and stop on command, remotely.
  4. I would prefer to be able to control it with my iPhone. Or some kind of R/C remote. Something along those lines.
  5. Short distance, no more than 50 ft, and that's being generous. Really generous. Over hiking trails, small stones, uneven ground. The platform I picked out should be able to handle these conditions based on video reviews I've seen. I'll be in the desert, also with film equipment. My laptop would be cumbersome but could still be an option.
  6. Preferably, both, but I'd take smooth over fast. If it can turn smoothly, or rotate, that's ideal. It doesn't have to go forward or over rough ground smoothly.

FilmBot:
be able to be controlled with my iPhone

Why?

Are you going to film the iPhone? Will you be using your iPhone to do the recording and make the coffee too? Or is this a totally arbitrary requirement that you're introducing because you think it would be fun? There's nothing wrong with doing things for the fun of it, but don't kid yourself that this requirement is anything to do with film making.

Your main decisions should be what's it going to look like (the shell) and how is it going to behave (the drive mechanism). Unless your control system is going to be part of the resulting film, anything else is irrelevant. I can't imagine why you'd be looking for anything other than a conventional radio control system and the chassis from a model bought off-the-shelf from the requirements you've described so far.

If you only have $100, you may need to consider possibly an RC rock crawler for your bot platform.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Rock-Crawler-4X4-RC-Truck-Off-Road-Metallic-Red-Maisto-Tech-Tri-Channel-New-/330860867435?pt=US_Character_Radio_Control_Toys&hash=item4d08d82f6b

Why?

Are you going to film the iPhone? Will you be using your iPhone to do the recording and make the coffee too? Or is this a totally arbitrary requirement that you're introducing because you think it would be fun? There's nothing wrong with doing things for the fun of it, but don't kid yourself that this requirement is anything to do with film making.

Your main decisions should be what's it going to look like (the shell) and how is it going to behave (the drive mechanism). Unless your control system is going to be part of the resulting film, anything else is irrelevant. I can't imagine why you'd be looking for anything other than a conventional radio control system and the chassis from a model bought off-the-shelf from the requirements you've described so far.

I'm sure you can't imagine, I haven't described the film project, or my equipment, the story, my vision for the film, or anything else. I wouldn't expect you to understand why I want to control it with the iPhone, just that I do and I know it's possible. It works for my film. This is my first robot, not my first film. That's why I came to this forum— to ask about the robot, not filmmaking. I know exactly how I want it to look, and how I want it to behave. I started this thread asking if the parts I had thought would be adequate would actually be enough to get the robot to take commands via the iPhone as a controller. Basically, I wanted a list of parts that would work for what I described. If it's above my budget, I'll deal with that somehow, but I really just wanted to know what I was getting myself into with the robot alone. I feel like people are getting way too caught up in the fact that it's for a film and questioning why. It's a prop, not a piece of equipment. I need it to do certain things (specifically, move on command) and look a specific way and be controlled easily, and not via laptop. That's all.

I thought building a robot that could move and be controlled remotely would be really basic. It seems I was very wrong.

If you only have $100, you may need to consider possibly an RC rock crawler for your bot platform.

That's a great suggestion, and really, I want the bot to be controlled like an rc car, but I've already been down this road. This was, actually, the very first thing I considered, but an r/c car chassis looks like an r/c car. It is important that the robot actually looks like a ROBOT, not like a car. That's why I chose this platform: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007JZ2ICW/ref=s9_wish_gw_d2_g236_ir02?ie=UTF8&colid=2COHY7RKP0O04&coliid=I243EGR0M4DTBQ&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=05EMV2QDXZ2RFQWNN6WN&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1389517282&pf_rd_i=507846

That has the look I need. If I could find a small replica of a Mars rover that was r/c and didn't look like a toddler's toy, that would be awesome too.

Now, if there's a way to get all the controls from the car, and put it in that platform, so it moves and looks like a robot but has controls like the car, that would solve my problem. Is that possible? If so, I'll gut a car and put that in the platform I like.