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Linux robot teaches coding, shoots lasers

Mar 31, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 1,107 views

Makeblock’s “Codeybot” is a dancing, singing, laser-shooting robot that runs OpenWrt Linux, and teaches kids how to program using mBlockly.

With 42 days left on Kickstarter, Shenzhen-based Makeblock is close to achieving its $100,000 goal for its Codeybot educational robot. The $99 packages are gone, but you can still pick up a Codeybot with docking station for $129, or $149 with one laser LED add-on. Deliveries are expected in August.

(click images to enlarge)

The two-wheel, self-balancing robot teaches the fundamentals of coding while also dancing, playing music, and shooting LED-based laser light out of a detachable turret. Aimed primarily at kids of six and up, the Codeybot teaches coding using an mBlockly drag-and-drop visual programming app based on Google Blockly. mBlockly, which is said to be similar to Scratch, currently works only on iPads. mBlockly uses creative problem solving to teach programming fundamentals such as algorithm design, command sequences and control flow, conditionals, loops, sensors, and events, says Makeblock.

Codeybot’s mBlockly coding app
(click image to enlarge)

The Codeybot can be controlled via a separate Codeybot app. The app is currently only iOS-compatible, but will support Android “in the near future,” a process that will be accelerated if the campaign meets a stretch goal. It’s unclear if there are plans to port mBlockly to Android.

Codeybot app in drawing mode (left) and controlling major functions
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The Codeybot app lets you send voice commands to the WiFi-enabled bot, including forward, backward, turn around, smile, angry, upset, and change color, which changes colors of the two 256-color wheel lights. You can also tilt your mobile device to control movements directly, and add optional attachments to enable two equipped Codeybots to play battle games using LED lasers.

Two laser equipped Codeybots face off in battle mode
(click image to enlarge)

The robot can stream music over 2.4GHz WiFi and play it back through its 2W speakers. You can also record your own voice and send it to Codeybot, who will repeat the words in a variety of “funny voices.” Five pre-programmed dance routines are provided, or you can turn to MBlockly to code your own. mBlockly can also be used to program the monochrome display, which consists of a 19 x 13 grid of large blue LED pixels.

The Codeybot runs OpenWrt Linux on MediaTek’s MIPS-driven, WiFi-ready MT7688 SoC, which is used by the 580MHz LinkIt Smart 7688 SBC from MediaTek Labs and Seeed Studio. The robot’s computer is supported with 64MB RAM and 1GB of flash, used primarily for storing audio.

Codeybot detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The teardrop-shaped, 163 x 127.7 x 79mm robot weighs 540 grams, and self-balances on two rubber wheels, with the help of a polyamide ball and internal gyros. Dual 10500 (±10%) RPM motors drive the wheels, and a 2000mAh battery offers 2-3 hour life. A magnetically linked docking station recharges the bot. There’s no camera, but there are tactile interfaces that let you directly change the movement of the bot by touching it.

The Codeybot is said to be an “open platform,” but there are no further details. Makeblock has made a name for itself selling a variety of open source Arduino based robot kits such as the mBot and Ultimate Robot Kit.

Further information

The Codeybot is available on Kickstarter through May 13 for $129, or $149 with one laser LED add-on, among other packages. Shipments are due in August. More information may be found at the Codeybot Kickstarter page. More on Makeblock may be found at the Makeblock website.

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