This is an older article that discusses how Anakin came about. The references in the article to Don Roy's site are now out-of-date since Don has stopped maintaining his main site. Which is too bad since it was a great starter place for learning robotics. The kit mentioned in this article is no longer available. However, you can make it from scratch fairly easily.
DR (for Don Roy - the person that supplied the basic robot) is what you do when you win a really nice robot kit from Don Roy's web site. Don will be selling the kits soon and was wanting market feedback. He had already sent me some useful Basic Stamp code via his newsletter and I logged on to his site and entered the contest - if nothing more than to say thanks for the good newsletter. Well... I won the robot kit. (PS: it did NOT come with the Anakin top)
The kit he sends you is built around the dimensions of a CDROM platter (and you can use CDROM platters for decks) but comes with a nifty all aluminum base, good quality servos, tires, and gear to put it all together. It is priced a bit under the cost of getting a kit from one of the regular places and the kit certainly has a good feel and quality to it. I think the aluminum base adds quite a bit of value to the purchase. When you get it built, you feel like you have a sturdy robot that will take a lot of playing. As a case in point, the servos are not sticky taped on like many models, they are mounted using aluminum brackets and the tail is not a door knob, but a good quality model aircraft tail wheel assembly.
Indeed, the robot went flying down the stairs during one ill-fated test drive and it survived with hardly a scratch.
Well... if you get a free robot, you just got to screw around with it. So I got the Anakin cup top from Taco Bell and plugged it onto the top of the robot with Lego blocks. I decided the disaster sensor that Don included with the robot was too code hungry and I put one of the IRODS sensors on instead. I aimed it at a 45 degree angle in front of the machine and when the floor stops being reflected, the robot stops going forward. The IRODS is available from HVW Technologies for a reasonable price. It has a very narrow beam so it really isn't good for proximity detection unless you use two or more of them. However, for a floor detector, it works very well. The code to run the IRODS is simple and efficient. A good example comes with each kit that you get from HVW. Since the above photo was taken, I added one more unit so they both point at 45 degree angles in the front - one pointing to the left a bit and the other pointing to the right a bit. That stops the robot from finding a precipice by approaching from an oblique angle. I've put Anakin on the kitchen island top with a phone book in the middle and he navigates his way around the thing until the batteries wear down.
For normal proximity detection, I put my IR detector on the lower tier of the robot (see ir.html). There seems to be tons of room left for adding other detectors and sensors.
Close up of bumper switches and IR
Real Video of Anakin Avoiding Things (122K)