Smartbots have landed!
So it looks like, once they actually shipped Smartibots moved a bit faster than we had been expecting. I received word of people getting them in Asia at the end of last week and it seems most UK backers got theirs on Monday, there has been word later this week of them arriving in Germany, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand and the USA later this week. It’s been really wonderful seeing built Smartibots pop up on social media, playing, making themselves useful and bothering cats (there has been more of this than I had expected). I've pulled some of the posts into a bit of a story here. Please do keep them coming they are really wonderful to see.
As it all happened a bit quicker than I has expected and UPS only actually delivered the kits that I was supposed to get a week and a half before anyone else, last Friday afternoon (after some of you had got kits in the regular shipping channel), I’ve been struggling a bit to keep up with all the comments and messages, make sure all the software is tested and deployed and get all the instruction videos shot and tutorials written up, which is why this update is a few days late.
Whilst I was waiting for my kits to arrive I worked on some project tutorials. I thought you might like to see how everyone’s preferences for tutorial types (and programming platforms) aggregated together so here are the data:
There was a pretty solid majority for household materials and packaging so I started with one of those, and I also wanted to do one that was fairly quick and didn’t need any bits that you don’t get in the kit, so I present to you your new pint-sized friend, MilkBot:
I’m also about 75% of the way through one that uses 3D printing; a little 4 wheel drive car which has been quite fun. I’ll post the video and CAD files for that next week, I think if you subscribe on YouTube you’ll get an alert.
I’m aiming to get a video up with a new project idea at least every two weeks and it would be great to hear the kind of things you would like to see how to make. The next one I’m planning is a hacked toy and it will either be a £6 animatronic puppy or something with Lego. Again if you’ve got strong views either way let me know.
So the easy bit of this update is out of the way it’s time to deal with things that still aren’t quite running to plan.
The first thing is that, despite our best efforts to weed out bad components and get the kitting right it sounds like some people have experienced some problems.
I’ve backed Kickstarters where the thing has arrived, hasn’t worked when I’ve tried to use it and ended up languishing in a drawer. I really don't want that fate to befall to any Smartibots!
If you are having problems please let me know and we will get you up and running. I’ve covered the issues that have come up so far in the troubleshooting section under the setup and build videos (on the instructions page).
The most significant issue seems to be battery boxes with loose connections, which a few enterprising backers have fixed with their soldering irons, but if you have a bad battery box, and you let me know, I’ll mail you another one.
The next thing, which is *really* annoying is the flat-head screw drivers. The ones that got sent to the kitting company ended up larger than the ones we had sampled so don't fit particularly well in the screw terminals [face palm]. You can make it work, but if you have another small flat head screw driver I’d probably use that instead.
The last thing kits-wise is it seems that a few undersize marbles made it into some kits, if you’ve got more than one marble that falls through the hole in the cardboard let me know and I’ll send you more marbles (we tried to minimise this risk by putting one more marble than you need in each kit but it sounds like that hasn’t worked perfectly).
The other area where things aren’t running totally to plan is some software features. There are three things we are still working on. We expect all three to be resolved in the next three weeks, here they are with explanations of where we are and why they aren’t done yet.
1) A.I. capability in the Android app
In many years of app development Akram and I have got used to broadly equivalent features and capabilities on iOS and Android so it was a bit of a shock, when we started implementing the A.I. on Android, how far ahead Core ML on iOS was. On iPhones we have been able to get the model to run at frame rates up to 20 fps, much faster than we actually need to control Smartibot. We bought a Pixel 2, which is pretty high spec Android hardware, and we struggled to get 3 fps which is right on the limit of not being fast enough to be much use. We have been trying to work out how to improve this and we’ve found some newer implementations of TensorFlow, one of which runs in the GPU rather than the main processor (which is the same way it works on iOS). Akram is currently working on implementing the Smartibot A.I. on this new platform but it still in beta so it is a bit slow going. He thinks it will take another week and a half or so but we are a bit worried the experience still won’t be as good as the one we have on iOS. We assumed that you were probably more interested in getting the A.I. up and running before the reconfigurable controllers so we will do them after. I’ll be providing more frequent updates on Akram’s progress in the main comments section.
2) Genius Kit Boards and Servo functions
OK, that’s basically it. We are in the middle of making a small tweak to the iOS app that will make it easer to program your own behaviour for your Smartibot triggered by the A.I. but that should be out over the weekend, or early next week, so look out for an update. It will be accompanied by a tutorial on how to actually program that sort of thing (which I am quite excited about putting together).
Thanks for reading all of this. Thanks for your patience. Thanks for your support. Thanks for all the posts on social media. Apologies again for the delay. Apologies for the things that still aren’t going quite right. But most importantly HAVE FUN WITH YOUR SMARTIBOTS!