TagBot is a simple table top robot with many similarities to a simple line-following robot made popular by many robot enthusiasts. The intent of a line-following robot, as well as many others in it's class, is to compete against other robots of similar physical characteristics in speed, accuracy and ability to perform the intended task. Many of these contents exist and have been showcased among many robot clubs, shows and even amongst Internet based communities.
TagBots in contrast are specifically not intended to be competitive. TagBots are decidedly intended to be cooperative and non-competitive by design. So although a TagBot may certainly posses similar characteristics to many popular line-following competition robots, a TagBot itself is not competeitive in nature.
This aspect should not however lead one to believe that TagBots are only developed by individuals or lone-wolfs solely for the sake of creating a robot which does something. On the contrary, these robots are intended to exist, operate and interact among other physically similar robots. TagBot exhibitions or demonstrations may be conducted with others as it is envisioned 5, 8 a dozen or more TagBots may operate in the same arena simultaneously exhibiting unique and interactive behavior with one another.
Although a TagBot is expected to posses various similar physical and functional requirements, behaviors and interactions amongst other TagBots this is only to establish a baseline or starting point for further development. TagBot capabilities and behavior is completely up to the will, desire a
nd abilities of those individuals which created the robot. The intent is to observe unique and emergent behavior amongst various TagBots whether it be visually, audibly or behavioral. Essentially the possibilities are limited only by ones desire and imagination.
To encourage greater participation by a wide variety of robot enthusiasts, TagBots are intended to be relatively inexpensive and as simple to build as possible using off the shelf or standard parts wherever possible. It is even envisioned that TagBots could be available as complete kits or at the very least a web-based pick list where someone could be sure they are ordering a complete robot with all the required parts. That along with easy to follow build instructions the hope is that anyone with even the most basic construction skills can create one. Our hope is that with this approach anyone from youngsters to adults with the desire to build their own TagBot will have the ability, resources and assistance readily available to be successful.
To further this goal, and in the spirit of this being an educational yet non-competitive activity, there will be at a minimum a downloadable open-source software which meets the basic TagBot requirements available to anyone who wishes to use it. As TagBots are built and new behaviors and capabilities are added it is encouraged that individuals post, distribute or otherwise make available additional source code or subroutines of their own to the TagBot community. The hope is that not only will TagBot builders learn more this way, but TagBots themselves might exhibit new and exciting behaviors which otherwise would not be possible by only a few individuals.
In general TagBots are built by individuals who want to experiment with emergent behavior based robot interactions. The basic TagBot behavior is quite simple. One or more TagBots are placed anywhere within an arena in which to operate. An arena is simply an arbitrarily shaped white-line bounded flat-black surface. The arena itself is compatible with those found in line-following competitions thus enhacing the appeal of getting involved with TagBots since no additional investment needs to be made. The difference however is that TagBots try to stay within and avoid the white-line boundary whereas line-followers try to follow and stay on a line.
What TagBots actually do within that boundary is really where the fun begins. TagBots have the ability to move forward, reverse or rotate at various speeds. The primary way that TagBots interact with each other is by contact sensors around the perimeter of the robot. These sensors, which are activated when one TagBots bumps into another, may be programmed to trigger a variety of behaviors. Some of these behaviors may involve movement (turn, avoid, stop, speed-up, slow-down), could be audible (play a song or note), or might visual (flash LEDs, start a strobe, display text) or combinations of all three.
The idea is that the more TagBots there are participating together the more interesting the exhibition becomes. Will the behaviors cooperate? Will they fend for themselves? Will order be instilled, or chaos prevail. These are just some of the interesting questions which can be explored using TagBots.
TagBots are based on the AVR ATMega48 microcontroller and are programmed in BASCOM using the AVR BASCOM tool from MCS Electronics. However it is possible to program a TagBot using any microcontroller or language.
I currently have software available for a basic TagBot. Details on the behaviors implemented in this version to come soon.
TagBot v3.3 BASCOM (.bas)