Freenove is another of the growing number of STEM-focused companies. They offer mobile robot kits and a variety of electronics starter kits as a way to easily enter into the STEM space. Their catalog includes a smart car (3 and 4-wheel versions), robot dog (patterned after the Boston Dynamics Dog) a robot ant and a micro “rover”: a 3-wheeled kit adept at line tracing, light following and collision avoidance. It also has expandable ports to add an LCD display for messaging.
Freenove Robotics products are generally designed either with a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino IDE interface. Of the robotic models available to operate with Arduino, their most popular is the small Hexapod (Mini) and their newest offering in Arduino is the Quadruped. Both of these are introductory level kits that you assemble and can program yourself. Both models have a very organic movement, almost like an insect climbing around, which is slightly hypnotic to watch. If you have any pets that get excited by creepy or crawling creatures, you might want to make sure they are in another room when you first fire these up.
The simplest of the two, of course, is the Quadruped version. Once assembled, it can be connected to any smartphone through the WiFi connection and its movements can be controlled directly through a smart phone GUI. A detailed assembly tutorial and complete code are downloadable (link comes with the product).
One thing that is kind of slick is that it has the ability to save a series of movements on your smartphone, just like you might do to build a macro by saving and replaying a series of keystrokes. The base model does not include a joystick-type controller although one is available for this model for an additional cost. Since it can be operated through a smartphone, a separate remote is not strictly required unless you want to do some more dynamic movements. Incidentally, the rechargeable battery set needed to run this four-legged creature must be purchased separately.
The next step up is the small Hexapod or sometimes referenced as the Hexapod Mini, since there are two versions available. With Hexapods, you get more degrees of freedom and more interesting movements are possible. It has a total of 18 servomotors, three per leg. With the exception of the two additional legs (and thus, a longer body), the leg parts and servos are the same as those used in the Quadruped. Assembly is a little bit more complex. For both models there is a calibration step to make sure that the legs are properly aligned before it is used. Like the Quadruped, the Hexapod with a remote-control joystick, is a little more expensive and you still need to buy the rechargeable batteries as a separate item.
Either model comes with pre-programmed standard movements. However, if you want to perform custom movements it requires programming in C++ via Arduino. Both of these models expand the Freenove ecosystem of Raspberry Pi and Arduino product kits at price points that make them accessible to the STEM community. These are just some of the latest products from Freenove. Overall, they have done a good job of sticking to their own ecosystem making it easy to transition from one kit to the next with minimal fuss. They have made sure their products are operable with the popular maker platforms (Arduino and Raspberry Pi) as well as making them smart-phone connectable. These are not ground-breaking tech, but accessible tech. And sometime accessible is exactly what you need to get people on board.