Giving Eyes to the Hexbug Spider XL

Geek Culture

Photo by Eric Gregori

We’ve mentioned one of Eric Gregori’s Hexbug Spider hacks in the past here, and I’ve used his early hacks as the basis for a couple workshops in Guatemala, but this one takes the concept up a notch or two. Eric has outfitted the new Hexbug Spider XL with a smart phone and his EMGRobotics Audio Dual Motor Controller board. The board allows control of motors based on signals from a standard stereo jack.

Using a custom Android app, Eric’s intelligent spider can now recognize, and track, colors. The hack is relatively cheap. The Hexbug Spider XL is $40 and the audio motor controller is $20 at The android app is also available on Eric’s site as an APK. It is based on OpenCV.

The concept of using a phone as a powerful robotics brain is very appealing. Even the cheapest phones have a few sensors and two easy-to-use analog outputs. For more complex tasks a Bluetooth or USB On-The-Go connection could let the phone app control just about anything.

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