Giving Eyes to the Hexbug Spider XL

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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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