The very beginning
Back when I was 17 years old, I had to do a high school project that could be about anything. Since I loved robotics and flying things, I first considered building several drones that could fly together to make choreographies. A bit like the illuminated drones that can replace fireworks by making drawings in the sky. Unfortunately, no teacher wanted to supervise the project because it was considered too ambitious according to them. I personally remain convinced that it was feasible ahah.
A few days after I was told it was too ambitious I came across a tutorial that explained how to write a python script capable of using computer vision to detect objects by their color. I was fascinated to see how easy it was to do this in python. I had always thought that computer vision was something I couldn’t do because it was too complex. I immediately wanted to find a project that would allow me to implement the knowledge learned in this tutorial and that’s how the idea of making Babot came up.
The first prototype
To make this very first version, I knew I could rely on my trusty 3D printer that I had assembled myself a few years before. It was too small to print some parts and that’s why the first prototype was made of many parts of max 15 cm long assembled with a bunch of screws and nuts. It made the whole thing quite complex to assemble but it also gave it some charm. Even if it was just a school project I wanted to treat the product design with as much importance as the programming part for example. Although the design was not really the most important thing for my teachers.
At that time I had already designed a custom PCB. I had it manufactured in China but I had to solder the components myself without any really adapted equipment. Just as a small anecdote, I used the camera of my Iphone as a microscope to solder the pins of the main microcontroller. Moreover I had at my disposal a traditional soldering iron way too big to do this kind of precision surgery.
In the end I must say that I was very happy with the result. That’s probably why the design didn’t fundamentally change in all the prototypes in the following years. However, not everything was perfect. It was composed of many parts and was therefore complicated to replicate. Another negative point was that it was not autonomous in the sense that it was necessary to connect it to a computer (which we never see on the pictures) to make it work. The computer was running the main program while the embedded pcb was just an interface between the computer and the motors. The last big problem of this first prototype was the long pole that included the camera in its upper part. This pole had magnets in its base that allowed it to stay in place as long as it was on a metallic surface. Unfortunately the magnets were not very strong and the whole pole with the camera tended to fall randomly on Babot’s plate.