johnny fiveA bunch of student employees at The University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Systems Management and Production Center (SMAP) have come together and worked using both inspiration with innovation in order to roll out a $250 motorized wheelchair that will be able to perform the work that is equivalent to that of a $20,000 robot. Sporting a Ricoh panoramic camera that is attached to a mast, this machine will roll into position as it snaps a shot, which will then be stitched together in an app and viewed over a smartphone in a matter of seconds. Given the moniker Johnny Five, it will be remotely controlled manually, although the final design will include a tiny onboard computer that lets it operate in an autonomous mode.

The whole idea behind Johnny Five is to update photo imagery from the same location consistently throughout a number of years, where it ends up as sort of a photographic Roomba, so to speak. You basically need to set it out there, and it will be able to figure out where to go without much coaxing afterwards.

A future iteration of this prototype will see the aforementioned tiny computer and software thrown into the mix, allowing the robot to map out and entire area by itself, and one of the first fields that Johnny Five intends to help out would be police departments.

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