The netbook-based robots use a simple netbook for the brains. We chose to build two platforms that are capable of carrying a netbook. One platform is a small four-wheel-drive robotics platform, and the other is a slightly larger hobby tank. The motor controllers can be identical for both platforms, and if the code is capable of adjusting for the relative speeds of the platorms, it can be shared as well.
The netbook-based solutions are powerful enough to run real-time image processing for intelligent navigation. They are also simple to setup, and they provide a familiar computing environment for the best flexibility. The built-in webcams are sufficient for most simple tasks, but alternative or additional webcams can be easily added.
Although powerful and easy to use, the netbook solutions are not without drawbacks. Compared to the other solutions we have pursued, the netbook is larger and requires a larger mobility platform. Also, netbooks do not have as many onboard sensors as, say, the smart phone solution. It is possible to combat this limitation by using specialized sensors with USB connections, or to use an external hardware device that can easily connect to additional sensors. Although we do not use external sensors at this time, the Romeo all-in-one motor controller serves the dual purpose of motor controller and external sensor interface.