Here’s a neat greentech idea currently seeking crowdfunding on Kickstarter. SunnyBot is a microcomputer-powered robot that continually tracks the position of the sun, angling its on-board mirror so that it keeps reflecting the sun’s rays onto a fixed point of your choice. The basic idea being to harness solar energy for use as an indoor light-source when rooms might otherwise be in shade, or to target the sun’s heat where it’s needed — for warming a room or heating a swimming pool or nurturing indoor plants, and so on.
SunnyBot’s creators — an Italian startup called Solenica — say the bot can also be used to improve solar charging performance by concentrating the sun’s energy. A single SunnyBot redirects 7,000 lumens to the location of your choice (equivalent to a single 500W halogen lamp). The reflective range of the device is up to 200 metres away, with an accuracy error margin of as little as 0.1 meter over 30 meters.
Obviously, the SunnyBot needs to be able to see sun in the sky to work — so residents of Iceland in December are going to find it brings them very little light relief. But amplifying the effects of sunlight in countries when sunshine is not so plentiful is one application its creators envisage for the device. In countries where sunshine is plentiful, the bot’s use-case is better targeting of the sun’s natural energy to improve the human environment.
Inside the sun-tracking mirror-wielding bot, itself powered by a row of solar cells, is a dual-axis, integrated microcomputer with an optical feedback system. The current SunnyBot design is a prototype, so its technical specifications will be tweaked as the startup moves to industrial production, with additional elements intended to be added to the design to improve durability, such as a custom enclosure for the mirror to support and contain it, and also the use of injection moulding for high quality body and mechanical parts.
Solenica is also planning to offer an open source version of the SunnyBot — called SunnyDuino — that, for a small price premium, will come with an additional Arduino-compatible controller and SDK so bot owners can hack in to the device to develop their own functionalities for its targeted beam of light and heat.
Solenica is aiming to raise £200,000 ($312,000) via Kickstarter to step up to industrial manufacturing so it can bring the device market. It also plans to spend some of the money on marketing SunnyBot, as it ramps up to license it to global manufacturers. It says it believes it can ship the first production run of the bot in time for the 2013 holiday season.
SunnyBot will be assembled in Italy, with macro components produced in different locations, including the electronic boards in Cambridge, U.K.; microcontrollers in Arizona, U.S.; and mechanical parts in Modena, Italy. The consumer cost per bot looks likely to be several hundred pounds. There are a limited number of Kickstarter pledges costing £199 ($310) which include one device. Solenica’s Diva Tommei adds: “We are hoping, after the project is over, to decrease costs of production and therefore the price of the robot. We want SunnyBot to be a household object that anyone can afford.”