Now that I have a very basic understanding of robotic simulation environment Gazebo, I circled back to ROS tutorial’s Where Next page. They suggested running virtual versions of one of two robots to learn about ROS: either a PR2 or a TurtleBot. I knew the PR2 is an expensive research-oriented robot that costs about as much as a Lamborghini, so whatever I build will be more along the lines of a TurtleBot. Sadly, the official TurtleBot’s idea of “low cost” is only relative to the six-figure PR2: when I last looked at ROS over a year ago, a TurtleBot 2 would still cost several thousand dollars.
Today I’m happy to learn that my information is out of date. When I last looked at ROS a year ago, the third generation of TurtleBot would have just launched and either it wasn’t yet publicly available or I just missed that information. Now there are two siblings in the far more affordable TurtleBot 3 family: the TurtleBot 3 Waffle is a larger robot suitable as platform for more elaborate projects, and the TurtleBot 3 Burger is a smaller robot with less room for expansion. While the Waffle is still over a thousand dollars, hobbyists without a kilobuck toy budget can consider the entry level TurtleBot 3 Burger.
Offered at $550, that price tag is within the ballpark of robot projects like my own Sawppy rover. If we look at the MSRP of its major components (OpenCR board + Raspberry Pi + IMU + laser scanner + 2 Dynamixel XL430 servos + battery) they add up to roughly $550. So it doesn’t feel like a horribly overpriced package.
My primary goal is still to get ROS running on Sawppy. But if I have a TurtleBot 3 Burger to play with established ROS libraries, that might make it easier down the road to adapt Sawppy to run ROS. While I stew over that decision, I can start my Gazebo simulation exploration using the virtual TurtleBot 3 Burger.