Robot Bases (and other development platforms)

by on March 10, 2014

husky robot

Hi all
This is going to be a quick post. There are many cases where instead of building a full robot from scratch, you just want to buy a platform. These platforms can serve as the base of your robot that you build upon, or just as a test platform for developing/testing new software with.

Here are some of the platforms that I know of. If you know of more, please leave them in the comment section below.


husky robot
The Husky is a nice rugged platform that has room for building on top of. It has four rugged 13″ wheels and supports ROS. It has a bunch of sample code for ROS, C++, python, and LabVIEW. The Husky is 39″ (990mm) long by 26.4″(670mm) wide. They also have a good website with lots of detail.

iRobot Create

irobot create
The Create is a small and low cost ($129.99 – $219.99) platform for testing indoor robotic applications. It is about 12″ diameter and 4″ tall (I am making up those numbers).

Pioneer / PowerBot

pioneer robot
The Pioneer robots are a standard in a lot on university research. They are mostly an indoor platform that comes with a sonar ring and a bunch of optional packages (sensors, pan-tilt, computer, etc.) that can be added. It is about 10″ tall and 11″ diameter (again I am making up the dimensions).

This company also has several other robotic platforms of different sizes and types, including the larger (indoor) PowerBot (yellow) and (outdoor) Seekur (white/blue). The Seekur is an outdoor all weather rated platform with 4WD. It is 1.4m long, 1.3m wide, and 1.1m tall and weighs a whomping 350kg.
seeker robot

Segway RMP

segway rmp
The Segway RMP is based on the Segway people moving device. It was the two large wheels and an optional third caster (based on the model you choose) for support (presumably it does not fall over if the batteries die). The RMP can accept mobility commands via USB or CAN. The manufacturer provides C++ sample code developed for Windows (while most robotic people use Linux…)*. It is a pretty bare platform that lets you add your own sensors, radios, computers, etc..; this can be both good and bad depending on how much development you want and what components you want to integrate.

*This is based on my informal observation that roboticists overwhelmingly use some flavor of Linux.

Willow Garage PR2

PR2 willow garage
The PR2 is a large (maybe around 6ft tall) and bulky partial humanoid robot. It has hands, a head, and a mobile omnidirectional base instead of legs. The PR2 has a bunch of sensors integrated and add-on’s that you can purchase, it also has 2, quad core i7 computers onboard (they call them “servers”, nowadays a server is just a fancy word for a computer) I have seen a cool demo where a PR2 would take peoples orders who were at a table and then bring them the drinks that they ordered.


rmax helicopter
The Yamaha RMAX helicopter is widely used as both a test platform for developing robotic helicopters and for diffrent agricultral and industrial applications. By default it is a large 2,750mm long by 720mm wide (not including rotor) and 1080mm tall, robot that is remote control. It runs on a gasoline engine. Depending where you are you might need to get a operator license to use it.


I am giving Baxter an honorable mention. It is the top half of a humanoid robot that is primarily designed for industrial applications. The reason I give it an honorable mention is that it is pushing the technology for industrial “powerful” arms to be safe to use around people. Some examples of this is having a face with eyes that shows where the robot will be moving to give humans an intuitive understanding of what is about to happen. It also has feedback control on the arms so that it will stop if an obstacle is hit; without harming the obstacle/person.
There is a industrial and research version available that are pretty similar. The cost is around $25K. Like of the other robots here the software runs on ROS.

Quad Copter

quadcopter robot
I need a quadcopter on this list, but I am not really familiar with quadcopter platforms. As such I picked one from a google search…
Mad lab Industries has a quadcopter that looks good… (I know this is a complete cop-out, please add good quadcopters to the comments below).


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I should make a menu for building a robot. For example
Appetizers = Sensors
Soup = Motors
Drink = Batteries
Entree = Robot Base
Sandwich = Computer
Dessert = Aesthetics

As I write this I think a sandwich line might be a better analogy.
Pick your bread, sauce, meat, toppings, etc..

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