Halloween is when we see all these animatronic figures of monsters and whatnot decorating the front yards of houses. What if they are connected to the Internet, and people online can “scare” the unsuspecting trick-or-treaters from the comfort of their homes? And with live streaming, these online scarers can even watch their victims scream like babies in real-time.
That’s the beauty of what we call ‘web-connected robotics’ or ‘web robotics’ in short.
This is basically how it would work. You connect the animatronic figure to an Arduino, a popular single-board microcontroller, which in turn is connected to a computer. Now, using the Arduino software installed on your computer, you can activate the figure on and off. And because your computer is connected to the Internet, you can connect the Arduino to the Internet as well. And with a web server and a communication server, such as Node.js, WebRTC, Adobe Media Server and Wowza Media Server, in place, online users can access your Arduino and activate the animatronic figure remotely via the web. Voila!
The whole setup may sound complicated, but the bottom line is that thanks to the proliferation of the Internet and IT technology, you can do some amazing things that were only possible with major tech companies just a decade ago. This type of home-brewed web robotics is fun and encourages the youngsters to discover their interest in technology.
As seen above, the essential element in web robotics is the single-board microcontroller that connects the things to the Internet. And nowadays, there are many to choose from, and they can be had for less than $100 in many cases – Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, Ordroid, Hackberry, UDOO, Cubieboard, Marsboard and OlinuXino to name a few. These are basically computers shrunk into a single printed circuit board with access points to which things can connect. This allows for limitless possibilities in web robotics.
(photo from http://cdn.homedit.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/front_yard_decorations_for_halloween_picture14.jpg)