|If this robot can float above the tire..|
then why does he even need a tire?
I can't start building until Christmas - I'm giving our kids Arduino project kits, so hopefully we'll be able to build robots together. In the meantime, I'm trying to come up with a few ideas of my own for our robot projects. Here's a few features and projects I'm thinking about trying to implement. Some I may have the skillset for right away, others might take some learning and experience before I can get them accomplished.
Mapping and dead reckoning
I'd like to drop the robot into an unknown space and then have it systematically map it's surrounding via dead reckoning. For dead reckoning, it will use encoders on the wheels to determine how far it has gone in a give direction. When obstacles are detected, it will note the position of the obstacle, then move on. I will give the robot some landmark within the area that it can use to recalibrate itself every so often. Maybe a black line on a white floor, so it can "zero" it's position and orientation every so often so that the dead reckoning errors don't add up to much. To get back to the zero position, the robot could use dead reckoning to backtrack, then begin a search pattern for the line from there.
Once the map has been drawn and committed to memory, the robot could be ordered to go to various places in the map without using sensors via use of the encoder wheel and planning its own route.
For a social aspect, drop 2 or 3 robots into an unknown space and have them work together to map it. The robots will communicate with eachother via morse code using either sound or light, and will add the data from eachother to what they already know. Each time they leave eachother they will setup a time to meet again to share more data.
Once the area is mapped, have the robots play games of hide and seek with eachother, taking turns for who is "it".
For communication, the robots will have to "dock" with eachother. Which means they will have to recognize that they are near one another, then get oriented in such a way that their IR or sound sensors line up with eachother's corresponding transmitters.
Some of these ideas may be a bit complex to accomplish right away, but you can get the picture I think.
A robot isn't really autonomous if it needs you to change its batteries every now and then. Design an onboard battery and corresponding battery charger such that the robot can easily recharge itself. The robot should then always monitor its battery health and know how to get back to the recharging station from wherever it is in its world. If there is already another robot at the charging station, have it wait in line for its turn.
Make streets using black lines. The cars on the streets will be a number of Arduino robots that are line followers. To control traffic, setup the cheap TI LaunchPads as traffic light controllers, controlling traffic lights that the Arduino bots have to detect. The Arduino bots will also have to avoid rear-ending stopped Arduino bots using sensors. You could even have the Arduino bot cars randomly break a traffic law, then have to run from the cop bot - another version of hide and seek.
Nascar style robot racing
Line following robots race around a track for a specified number of laps. A "racemaster" robot records the number of laps each bot has run and determines the order of finish. There will be two or three "lanes" which will just be lines drawn on the ground. Robots will be able to detect when another robot is close in front of or behind them, and there will be a "jockey for position" algorithm.
There will be a pit area with recharging stations for endurance races. Robots with fresh batteries will run faster than robots with deader batteries, which will make for interesting race dynamics and pit strategy.
The robot racing idea sounds like something I may implement soonest. I don't remember seeing or hearing of anything like that before. Using line following racing, these will actually be a lot like automatic slot cars. I may even do live netcasts of the events.
Just brainstorming for ideas - hopefully you will see some of these plans become reality soon. I'll post more plans as I think of them.