The Arduino platform was perhaps the most popular for building a robot

The market has seen a whole bunch of robots based on Arduino, especially Arduino car kits. Over the past few years, UCTRONICS has also released our Arduino smart robot car product line. This leads to the first question we are having here: Why do we use Arduino as the platform for a Robot?

The answer is simple: Arduino is a popular and low-cost platform with excellent code and software support from the open-source community. The Arduino boards, such as the UNO R3, has already been used in a lot of maker projects that could be utilized when it comes to a simple robot. Besides, the Arduino IDE offers a nice and effective way for users of all backgrounds to program the board.

The possible future for building wireless smart robot kits

However, what will be the next popular boards used in robot projects? Some companies answer that question with Micro: Bit, but we think that there are other alternatives that could serve better in a Robotic Car project.

Welcome to the realm of ESP32, another cost-effective yet powerful development platform that is used in many IoT (Internet of Things) projects. The ESP series is so powerful and competitive that it almost becomes a monopoly among products selected by enthusiasts and hobbyists.

Why don’t we have an ESP32-based robot until now?

However, you might ask, if it was so powerful and popular, why didn’t you use this platform on your previous robot cars?

This is another story to tell. UCTRONICS Robot Kits are special because of the video feature we provide in the robot, and you can see the video and control the robot in the first-person perspective with app control. With that in mind, we’ve built our K0071 with a USB camera on Arduino and K0073 with Raspberry Pi camera support.

The previous generations of ESP boards do not support the camera port, and the only way to use a camera on that platform is to use Arduino SPI cameras like the Arducam B0067. However, this would not make it an ideal solution, because it’s a proprietary solution that could add the cost, and the SPI rates restrict the performance of the speed to make the video feed too slow to be seen and controlled in an APP.

A Brand-New Toy Car Made with A Brand-New Arduino Board

The recent revisions of the ESP boards have fixed this issue and introduced a camera port on the ESP32 to support parallel camera modules like OV2640, and our partner Arducam has also updated their ESP-32 based Arduino compatible boards to support this feature, and this product also inspires us a lot. The Arducam ESP32 UNO with the camera is also called the Arducam IoTai, which keeps the same form factor and pinouts as the classic Arduino UNO R3 but integrates the ESP-32S module to support simple IoT and AI applications. It also incorporates a PSRAM (pseudo-static random-access memory) for capturing and processing images.

Once the ESP32 module can be used with the Arduino IDE and support camera interface, we believe it to be a potentially better platform for building a robot than the Arduino, and start to build this brand new toy car which is more compact in size but more powerful inside.

Built with Finest Parts and Modules – ESP32 makes robots better

Why ESP32 outperforms the Arduino UNO R3 in terms of building a robot? Let’s talk about how to wirelessly connect to your Arduino robot first. One of the most used solutions is an HC-05 Bluetooth module, like those used in UCTRONICS K0072. You can connect this extra Bluetooth card to the Arduino board for the Bluetooth support. Another way is to use it like UCTRONICS K0071, where a WIFI adapter board is used for you to connect a WIFI module on it. Both these solutions require extra hardware to be connected, and that means more space and costs needed, which is not preferable in building a robot.

The ESP-32 module, on the other hand, integrates the WIFI and Bluetooth features inside the coin-size SoM (System on a Module). Even with a camera module connected, you can get the whole unit at around $10. It can work in a more robust way than the Bluetooth and WIFI adapters used on the Arduino board, and you don’t need to worry about bending the pins on the module anymore. Just like the Arduino community, you also have access to countless open-source resources which can be utilized on your own projects. For example, the Arducam guys have used an open-source control panel with software for face recognition and detection.

It’s fully programmable

One of the major uses of these robots is for STEM projects where you or your kids can learn about the basics of programming and computer science, and it’s a pleasure to see the robot become wiser with our own coding skills. This robot will support both Arduino IDE and ESP-IDF software development tools, and that is a good way to take advantages of both platforms.

UCTRONICS is also capable of building scratch-based software, like the UCBlock we have built for our Arduino and Raspberry Pi robots. However, that software is limited to programming on a Windows device, and we are planning to build new software on more platforms, including Android and IOS, so it’ll become possible to program the robot with a phone or tablet.

The Coolest Robot Kit for All Ages

We have carefully designed the appearance of the robot to make it more visually attractive to kids and shrunk the whole unit as compact as possible to make it a lightweight robot to be carried around a lot. The buzzer on the robot can be used as a piano and the LEDs used for a simple light show. The ultrasonic and line following modules allow it to become an automatic robot, and the camera could be used for both simple controls and advanced applications.

With the visual programming software, Arduino IDE and ESP-IDF, we can make the robot fully programmable for everyone. If you are a real novice and just want to taste the basics of programming, you can use the visual programming software; If you want to go further and design and upload your own codes and algorithms to the robot, you can do that easily with the Arduino IDE; If you are more experienced and want advanced applications, you can use the ESP-IDF.

With this car, we want to build the coolest robot for all ages in terms of both hardware and software, and we will refine it to the better in the following days. Stay tuned!

Arduino Autonomous Car