The field of robotic has made phenomenal leaps over the past few decades. Modern day robots are packed with sensors, are able to perform a variety of tasks with impeccable precision, and humanoid robots are being designed to better interact and assist people. If you’re one of those people who’s always wanted to tinker around with a robot, then the RQ-HUNO robot kit from Merlin Digital is just for you. This pint-sized robot won’t be helping you around the house, but is a basic yet excellent example of how robotics actually work.
What’s in the Box
The RQ series has a number of different miniature robots, with the RQ-HUNO being the latest one, capable of more advanced postures and articulation than previous models. In the box you get a multitude of motors and parts that somehow magically get put together to form your robot. You also get a set of special tools in order to assemble the robot, as well as a CD with software to actually program the robot. There’s also a power adapter for recharging the included battery pack, and a small remote to control the robot and execute pre-programmed instructions. There’s also an excellent instructional manual that contains photographs of every single step, so there’s very little chance of things going wrong if you follow them properly.
You’ll want to have plenty of time (and patience) to spare when you actually sit down to assemble the RQ-HUNO – the manual says that assembly time will take about an hour, but I find that very hard to believe. My RQ-HUNO came pre-assembled, so as a test I thought I would attempt to disassemble and reassemble one of the legs. Actually taking apart the leg took me a whole forty minutes, and putting it back together took another twenty. Multiply that by the number of limbs and parts involved in the RQ-HUNO, and you’re looking at an average assembly time of two to four hours at least. This kit may be small, but it isn’t for the faint-hearted or younger crowd. It requires a great deal of patience to put together, unlike something like Lego as an example. But once you’ve got everything set up, you can stand back and marvel at your petite creation.
Powering up the RQ-HUNO is a simple task of connecting the small power connector at the top, and pressing the power switch at the back of the robot’s control unit. You then have to press the STOP button on the remote in order for the robot to assume a default standing position, and respond to your commands. The top half of the remote control allows you to do basic movements such as walking and turning, while the bottom numerical part of the remote is used to execute downloaded scripts and actions. You can also install an optional Bluetooth module to control the RQ-HUNO from your smartphone.
Software and Programming
If you’re happy to navigate the RQ-HUNO using just the remote control, then your work here is done. But if you’re looking for more advanced uses, then you’ll need to install the bundled programming software. Again, software instructions and an example program are included in the instructional manual, so you can easily learn the basics. Downloading programs to the RQ-HUNO is as simple as plugging in the equipped USB COM cable and connecting it to the robot.
The software allows you to create custom programs and actions in two ways. The first method shows you a diagram of the robot along with a small jog dial for each servo on the robot. You can then individually select a servo and rotate the dial to perform a particular action in real-time on the robot. This is useful to preview actions as your write them, or to see if a robot can perform a particular action properly or not. The second way is somewhat simpler, where you can select all the servos on the robot for a particular action, and then manipulate the robot by hand to get the pose or action that you want. The computer then automatically translates the position of each servo for you and then creates a quick action in your script. Once you’ve created and downloaded a program to the RQ-HUNO, you simply execute it by pressing the assigned number on your remote control.
You also have access to the ActionBuilder software, which allows you to create a series of actions that utilize various sensors of the robot. For example you can tell the robot to move forward continuously when you clap your hands – a primitive script, but one that works nonetheless.
Overall the programming interface is fairly straightforward and explained as carefully as possible, but only after you’ve written a few programs will you feel confident using it.
The RQ-HUNO is an interesting product whose complex assembly alone will keep you occupied for a good number of hours. It does offer some basic introduction to robot and logic programming, so once you’ve wrapped your head around it, you can pull off some programs of your own. My only wish is that future versions of the robot come with more sensors, which would make for a much more interesting and reactive experience than just running through mindless pre-programmed dance routines.