Back in 2017, engineer Max Kern created his Tiny ZeroBot — a simple robot built around the Raspberry Pi Zero W and featured a Pi Camera Module, DC gear motors, and other hardware packed into a 3D-printed housing. The robot could be FPV-controlled using any computer or smartphone via web browser. The ZeroBot was a simple, if not an ingenious design, that could be thrown together, and made for a great educational tool for anyone looking to get into robotics.
Kern has since refined the robot’s design with a shrunken-down version of the ZeroBot, known as the ESP32 Wi-Fi Robot, which as the name implies, replaces the Zero W with a smaller ESP32 module.
“Despite its lower processing power, the ESP32 robot has a ton of features. It streams color video over Wi-Fi, runs on a small LiPo battery, and can be controlled accurately from any web browser. With the €4 ESP32 and a €3 camera, it’s also really cheap.”
Beyond the ESP32 microcontroller, the robot is equipped with an OV7670 camera, TI DRV8833 dual motor driver, 6V 75:1 brushed gear motor, 600mAh LiPo battery, and charger. All of which is soldered to a custom PCB planned to save on space in the 3D-printed chassis. At 160 x 120px, the video streaming is nothing more than potato quality for the visuals, but Kern states it’s better than a Game Boy camera and has 8-bit color.
For those looking to create their own ESP32 Wi-Fi Robot, Kern has uploaded all the necessary STL files on his Thingiverse project page and the code to his GitHub repository. He warns however, that the development of the robot is not 100%, and beginners may want to try their hand at building the ZeroBot instead.