FreeIO.org is currently running a poll to determine what sort of free hardware project the community would most like to see developed. At present the poll is leaning heavily towards robots. So I thought it would be worthwhile to do a quick survey of existing free/open hardware robot projects to see what there is to work with and improve on. There are a lot of FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) robotics projects out there too but this article will focus on hardware projects that are under free hardware licenses. See the FreeIO.org “about page” to learn more about the concepts of free / open hardware.
I’ve attempted to list the projects roughly in chronological order by the project’s creation date. To qualify for this list, a project needs several attributes: 1) it must be a complete mobile robot, not just part of a robot such as a manipulator arm 2) the hardware design documents (e.g. CAD files, schematics, etc) must be available under a free license (i.e. a license that protects the user’s basic freedoms – licenses with commercial-use restrictions are NOT free/open licenses, 3) at least one working robot must have been developed and demonstrated. Projects that are in the planning stages didn’t make the list as we’d like to see well-proven designs that have been well-tested in the real world.
Read on for the full list of free/open hardware robot designs!
Here’s a quick status update on the site. I’ve started revising the old resource pages, beginning with the Books and References page. Most of the books listed were out of print or old editions, so I’ve started replacing them with comparable books that are currently available. The list is pretty short at present, I’d love to get some input on recommended books you’d consider essential for an open hardware designer. Post a comment below and let me know what to add. Some CC or GFDL licensed ebooks would be really nice if anyone knows of any.
Also, I’ve put up a poll to get some input on what sort of Open Hardware project readers are most interested in seeing. This first poll is to find a general direction for a project and once we get enough input, I’ll put up another to narrow down some features. You can find the poll in the right column of page. If you haven’t picked an option yet, please do.
Nathan Seidle of SparkFun gave an interesting talk at TEDxBoulder about the open hardware business model SparkFun has and offers it as a better model than the innovation-stifling models that rely on patents to suppress competition. It’s a great example of a successful business based on copyleft principles, showing that it’s possible to make money while still protecting the user’s freedoms.
Today marks the official relaunch of FreeIO.org’s website! When Marty founded the site back in March of 2000, he envisioned it as the center of a community interested in hardware freedom. He contributed to that community by developing some of the early free hardware designs and releasing them on this site under the GNU GPL. Marty’s designs were perhaps best know for his unique penchant of naming each board after a different breakfast treat.
Marty passed away on October 25, 2007. But before he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, Marty passed on all his hardware prototypes, development gear, and this website to me. I’m Steve, better known as Steevithak online. I’ve kept Marty’s original FreeIO.org website intact and online since then, while I pondered what to do with it.
The time has come to get things rolling again and I’m starting with a relaunch of the website. Marty’s free hardware designs are still here and hopefully we’ll find volunteers to work on new hardware projects to add. I’ll also start updating the resource pages to make them more useful again. Meanwhile, I’ve decided to make the site more immediately useful by aggregating all the free hardware and open hardware news, so members of the open hardware community can have one central place to find out what’s going on.
We’re tracking news from the Open Source Hardware User Group, the Open Source Hardware Association, the Open Source Hardware and Design Alliance, and Open Collector. I’m also following blogs for major open source hardware projects like Arduino and Raspberry Pi. To round it out, we’ll have postings of general interest to hardware hackers such as application notes and new product releases from component vendors. If you can think of any cool free/open hardware blogs or news sources we should add, post a comment below. In fact, comments of any sort on how we can make the website more useful to the community are welcome.
Despite the lack of news updates lately, things are still slowly moving forward. I went through the site recently doing minor updates. I created a memorial page about Marty. I’m still looking for ideas about what the site should become and how we can best help the free hardware movement. I’m still looking for volunteers who’d like to work on free hardware projects. While I’m not much of an electronics engineer, I think I can improve the website itself and find new ways to use it to promote free hardware. As always, suggestions are welcome.
For those who weren’t aware, Marty passed away today. He made his last entry in his cancer blog on 25 Oct. Monica updated the blog on the 27th, saying “Diehl Martin passed away this morning at about 5:00, very quickly, in his beloved Monica’s arms.” I’ll continue to keep the FreeIO.org website online.