TurtleBot has been a really fun project to work on from designing the hardware to writing the code to seeing people play with it. Now TurtleBot even has an arm so that professors can use it to teach all aspects of introduction to robotics classes. I even have one at home and my husband and I made a cool map of the house. TurtleBot was also featured in Servo Magazine (article).
A Brief History
The TurtleBot started as a dual purpose internal Willow Garage project. With the Kinect having just been released, we saw an opportunity to create a mobile robot with many of the capabilities of the PR2 in an entry level platform. We (Tully Foote and I) proposed the project for creating a simple mobile robot good enough to do multi robot research and provide an example of how simple a robot could be to leverage the diverse capabilities of ROS. We started with the idea that it should be easy to buy, build, and assemble the robot, which meant using off the shelf consumer products and parts that easily could be created from standard materials.
In the open culture of Willow Garage, we had several visitors in the building who saw the prototype and said, “I’d like to have some of those. Are they available?” From this we realized that there was more than DIY demand for the TurtleBots. This interest lead us to polish the design focusing on simplicity and user experience. In addition we started building up the TurtleBot community based on top of the open source hardware design we released. There are now dozens of schools and institutions using the TurtleBot, there are 3 vendors selling TurtleBots worldwide.
In fact here is a picture of my first “TurtleBot” prototype and the tutorial I made for wiring a kinect and a create together.