For those wondering about the propriety of the name "Android" as a mobile device operating system, wonder no more because its real purpose has finally been revealed. It's really an operating system for robots.
Android is the term used to describe a humanoid robot, i.e., a robot that looks like a human being. So when Google started using it for their operating system for smartphones, some critics couldn't help but snigger. They deemed it too bold a term to be used for the impressive but intellectually-limited devices.
Apparently, we have underestimated these little gadgets. If you think about it, they've got enough features to make up a robot. Practically all of them are now sensitive to touch; they've got built-in cameras for vision; a mic and speaker for listening and talking; accelerometers to make them sensitive to motion; GPS to determine their current locations; WiFi and Bluetooth for wireless communications; and many more.
The only thing that they really lack is mobility.
But thanks to some creative folks at cellbots.com, we can now rephrase the previous sentence in the past tense. They've managed to put an Android-powered phone, the Adruino platform, and a cart to create a fully mobile and semi-autonomous robot.
With wireless technologies, the robot can even be controlled remotely. Sensors have been attached to the robot to allow it to interact with its environment. So for instance, the cliff-detection sensor prevents the cellphone robot from falling off edges of tables or stairs.
The basic setup requires the following: an Android G1 Dev Phone, an HTC USB break-out board for the G1, the Android Scripting Environment, Arduino, and the Android SDK, among others.
The Android G1 Dev Phone is actually a sim-unlocked and hardware-unlocked device that is designed for people who want to experiment with their Android cellphone. By default, the phone is fully compatible with Android 1.0. They are not built for regular users and have to be flashed manually if you want to perform system updates on them.
Arduino is a prototyping platform that includes a board and a programming language. Basically, telnet instructions are sent wirelessly from your computer (or from another phone) to the G1 phone attached to the board. The board then receives the instructions via the phone's serial port and communicates with the servos to make the robot act according to the instructions given.
To read more about the cellphone robots featured on this article, visit cellbots.com.
Instructions for constructing a G1 robot can be found by clicking that link.
Here's a video showing the robots in action.