The first rule of Roomba is that Roombas don't climb; for less than the price of a military grade iRobot beast, your a ground-based machine isn't going to do very well against obstacles. A new open-source bot called ARTI may not clean, but it can conquer stairs with ease.
The newly public Ground Drone Project has been in development for a couple of years. The developers focused their attention on the problem of climbing stairs because it's both difficult for robots and a major impediment to their utility. A bot is only as useful as the obstacles it can overcome.
ARTI—short for articulated mobile resonance apparatus—is the first design released by the project. It's based on the founders' patented articulation tech and tread design, which allows the bot to overcome stairs with relative ease.
You control the bot using just a simple remote that'll remind you of a giant version of the one from your old RC car. It's lightweight, and while not exactly as indestructible as the military tanks the bot is based on, it's durable and nimble enough to withstand a good fall.
ARTI is entirely open source, and many of the parts, like the motors that drive the six tank treads, are available from off-the-shelf suppliers. For those of you who don't have a CNC machine or a 3D printer handy, you can buy all of the custom-designed parts from the Ground Drone Project. A cheaper ABS version of the parts is available for $339 while a premium aluminum version costs $509. Both are available for pre-order now, and a Kickstarter is set to launch in a few months. According to the founders, you should be able to get the rest of what you need off to build your very own ARTI off the shelfe for $1200-$1300.
The boxes that hold electronics and connect the treads are largely empty, and the Ground Drone Project founders suggest they could be filled with sensors or whatever gear a particular use case needs. Indeed, beyond the basic drone, it'll be interesting to see what people actually do with ARTI when it starts making its way public later this year. The basic design is pretty simple, and the founders envision it as a platform rather than a finished product. Might we suggest a robotic vacuum that goes up and down the stairs? [Ground Drone]