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by Joseph L. Jones and Anita M. Flynn, published 1993 by A K Peters Ltd, grew out of the research done in Rod Brooks' Mobile Robotics Group at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab from 1984 to 1992. It started out as a Robot Building Manual for the lab's 1989 Robot Talent Show, where students were given kits of parts and computers and instructed to build robots of their own design, inventing and solving new problems as they went along. The Manual was then revised so as to be understandable to the novice robot builder, published as Mobile Robots, and was used as a textbook in several high schools and colleges.

The book was designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. It contains detailed instructions for the building of TuteBot, a simple robot designed as a tutorial, and Rug Warrior, a more advanced model containing its own programmable microprocessor. In between, the book ranges in detail from simple robotics theory to advanced schematics, including a complete program for Rug Warrior written in a variant of C.

Advanced chapters include detailed discussions on computational hardware, the strengths and weaknesses of locomotion systems (including motors), the different types of available sensors and power supplies. To encourage the imagination, the book includes photos and descriptions of several of MIT AI Lab's (then) current robotics projects, including Attila and Genghis, two six-legged walking robots (Attila, I think, is substantially larger than Ghenghis, which is shoebox sized), Squirt and Goliath, the (then) world record-holder as the world's smallest autonomous robot.

For the beginner, Mobile Robots is an invaluable tool, containing instructions on simple soldering techniques, how to build prototypes, and a substantial list of dealers and suppliers for electronic equipment and parts. One notable feature is the recommendation of LEGO building blocks as a structural component, which may have been a major factor leading to the introduction of LEGO Mindstorms in 1998.

Although Mobile Robots: Inspiration to Implementation is certainly an excellent book to learn the basics of electrical engineering, physics, computer science, and general know-how necessary for the building of simple robots, where it truly shines is in its presentation of a coherent vision of behavior based robotics at a level suitable for amateur robotics hobbyists.

Most books on robotics for those of us without a PhD generally do a passable job of covering the basics of motors, sensors and electronics. You can learn how to wire up an H-bridge or build an infrared proximity sensor from any of a dozen books. Most also explain the rudiments of microcontroller programming, and how to interface sensors, actuators and processors. What they don't explain is how to get anything but the most rudimentary and mechanical of behaviors out of your expensive heap of motors, chips and batteries.

Mobile Robots, on the other hand, is written by the engineers who developed behavior based robotics, and it does a thorough job of explaining how to connect the inputs to the outpus to get intelligent-seeming results. The example robot presented in this book, Rug Warrior, is a complete and functioning robot programmed on behavior based principles.

I believe Lego Mindstorms arose from MIT's 6.270 class, from which Mobile Robots is another spinoff.

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