SHOWALL HIGH VOLTAGE ROBOTICS
Figure 0 - Oberon is a remote controlled robot for long range exploration
Oberon is a remote controlled robot for long range exploration

One of my very first robotics projects was a crude ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle). This was really just a toy RC truck with a video camera and transmitter mounted to the top so that I could sit in front of a monitor and explore the backyard as if on some kind of deep space mission. Although this idea seemed pointless at first, the resulting ROV was a huge amount of fun to operate, and gave the sense that some vast alien landscape was being explored. The received video looked so different on the monitor than just walking around, and the little RC robot was good for the distance of the backyard and some of the laneway. I was now hooked on remotely operated vehicles.

Oberon takes the ROV concept to an entirely new level, able to traverse just about any terrain and operate almost a mile away from the base station. Oberon also sends back color video, allows me to speak through the robot, and has an articulated head that can pan or tilt to survey the surrounding area. Being as tall as a person and having a helmet for a head, Oberon is not just an ROV, but also a humanoid actor, or robotic avatar that can be controlled from the comfort of my office chair. The mechanics used to create Oberon are taken from a discarded electric wheelchair and mixed together with a welded frame, some standard RC parts and other components purchased from various sources. Building a robot like this is actually fairly inexpensive if you are good at salvaging junk and hacking things together.



Figure 1 - An old power chair will be transformed into an all terrain robot
Figure 1 - An old power chair will be transformed into an all terrain robot

You can often find older electric wheelchairs and shopping scooters going for a bargain at surplus electronics houses or second hand shops because of strict controls on parts from the manufacturer and government regulations that require changes to the design. I have found these power chairs selling for as little as $100 in perfect order only because of some tiny part that was no longer available or because of some new crazy safety rule that made it obsolete. Out of the 10+ electric wheelchairs I have for parts, only one was not working, and it is usually only the batteries that are no good. If you can find one for a bargain, don't hesitate to snap it up as there is a ton of great parts that can be used for large robotics project.

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