For My Next Trick: Talking to a Robot via Phone

I’m a mobile guy at heart, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy hobbies like most of you do. Take my robot addiction and my thought that robots in the home are the next big thing, for example. (Hey, I don’t knock your hobbies, so don’t knock mine, ‘k?) It’s even better when I can combine my mobile profession with such a hobby, and I’ve found a new Android application that bridges the two worlds: Cellbots is a free app in the Android Market that allows several ways to control different robotics platforms both by Bluetooth and by speech.

The Cellbots app actually hit the Market late last year, but I missed it until now. And the only reason I found it was because we recently upgraded our old LEGO Mindstorms robotics kit to the newer 2.0 version, and amid some research, found the new app. This video demo shows the four methods the app uses to control a robot: a directional pad (D-Pad), joystick, a phone’s accelerometer, and voice controls which use Google’s Android voice command functionality. Even better is the use of a Google Talk chat session where you can tap commands in the chat window and the robot responds accordingly.

As if the phone controls weren’t exciting enough — to me, that is — you can mount and connect an Android phone to a robot for use as a mobile webcam. Using a server-side application, live video streams from the robot to a computer and you can show different faces on the phone to give the robot some personality. It sounds corny, but it gives your creation a little character.

I haven’t used the Cellbots app just yet, mainly because we haven’t built a robot with the Mindstorms set we just bought. But I think I’ve found a new use for my Google Nexus One (s goog) handset, as our next robot will surely need an attached webcam. And Cellbots will supplement the official LEGO MINDdroid app I found last year, which also allows for remote robot control through an Android handset. With IBM’s (s ibm) Watson recently besting all human challengers on the game show Jeopardy!, it’s only a matter of time before the robots rise up. I, for one, plan to be prepared with my smartphone.

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