Edison: an affordable LEGO robot for tomorrow’s robotics engineers

Interesting Engineering

Microbric, a small Australian company has thrown down the gauntlet to LEGO and produced ‘Edison’, a programmable and LEGO compatible robot that anyone can afford. Priced at just $39 Edison has launched on crowdfunding website Kickstarter.

Edison_robot_KS[Image Source: Edison]

Edison seems to be a cross between a traditional toy robot with wheels on each side and one of LEGO’s programmable bricks. There are LEGO stud connections on the top and bottom of the robot and holes for LEGO shafts along the sides. The wheels are removable and allow LEGO cross axles to be inserted, so you can use LEGO gears and wheels.

Edison has an impressive array of sensors for its price including: infrared obstacle detection, light sensors, line tracking sensor and a sound sensor. Edison can also play sounds, communicate with another Edison and respond to a TV or DVD remote control.


[Image Source: Edison]


Edison is bright orange with a transparent top, which allows you to see all the electronics inside, but also serves a more important sensory function. The front of the robot has a complex lens with concave and convex refracting surfaces that allow the robot’s single infrared sensor to detect obstacles to its left and right.

Edison is the brain child of Microbric’s founder Brenton O’Brien, a passionate LEGO fan and electronics engineer. "Making Edison affordable meant keeping the electronic component count down, which was very challenging from an engineering standpoint. I didn’t want to let go of functionality, so I had to find ways of using a limited number of components and have those components perform more than just one function," said Brenton O’Brien.

"For example the electronic component that receives infrared light performs as the obstacle detector, receives communication from other Edison robots and receives commands from a TV remote control."


[Image Source: Edison]

Edison is programmed using open source drag and drop graphical programming software called EdWare. The way programs are downloaded to Edison is quite interesting. There is no USB or serial port; instead Edison comes with an unusual EdComm cable that has a 3.5mm stereo plug at one end and a LED within a moulded plug at the other end.

The 3.5mm plug connects to your computer’s headphone socket and the other end interfaces with Edison’s line tracking sensor. Downloaded programs are played as pulse coded audio through the headphone jack and converted to light by the LED. The light is then received by the robot’s line tracking sensor, which then programs the microcontroller. Brenton believes that a lot of people can encounter problems when installing USB drivers and that EdComm greatly simplifies this and provides a true plug and play experience.


[Image Source: Edison]

Edison certainly looks like a great package for the budding engineer, teacher or student. For more information visit their website or head on over to the Kickstarter campaign.

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