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I'm involved in research on psychologically plausible models of reinforcement learning, and as such I thought it'd be nice to try and see how well some to the models out there perform in the real world (i.e. sensory-motor learning on a mobile robot). This is already been done in some robotics labs, such Sutton's implementation of the Horde Architecture on the "Critterbot". However, these implementations involve robots custom-build by robotics experts in order to deal with the trials and tribulations of learning on a long time-scale:

"The robot has been designed to withstand the rigors of reinforcement learning experiments; it can drive into walls for hours without damage or burning out its motors, it can dock autonomously with its charging station, and it can run continuously for twelve hours without recharging."

Unfortunately I'm no expert when it comes to designing robots, and don't have access to a high quality machine shop even if I did; I'm stuck with whatever I can buy off-the-self or assemble by hand. Are these constraints common enough for amateur robotics suppliers to cater to, or should I expect to have to start from scratch?

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    $\begingroup$ This question can't be answered in a useful way. Any answer describing the state of the art of robotics, will get out-dated in a couple of months, a year tops. It's also very general. $\endgroup$ – Shahbaz Jun 11 '13 at 8:45
  • $\begingroup$ Just a pointer to a line of particularity durable and longlasting off-the-self or kit robots would be fine. If a particular company/supplier caters to such needs, then the answer wouldn't be out-dated rapidly. $\endgroup$ – zergylord Jun 11 '13 at 10:46
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to robotics zergylord, but I'm afraid that there is no practical, answerable question based on actual problems that you face here. Take a look at How to Ask and tour and if you can edit your question to make it answerable then I would be happy to reopen it. $\endgroup$ – Mark Booth Jun 11 '13 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ How is this too localized? Am I the only person concerned with actuator reliably and the battery life of robots? I read all of those links; which part actually applies to me? $\endgroup$ – zergylord Jun 12 '13 at 3:28
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry zergylord, I should have linked to that meta post when I made my pre closure comment. I will reopen this for now so we can see if anyone can answer it as it stands, but I will have to be sensitive to future close votes - at the moment it is very close to a NARQ (not a real question). It would be better if you asked a question about a real problem you face along with what you have tried so far to solve it rather than dealing with a hypothetical situation. $\endgroup$ – Mark Booth Jun 12 '13 at 11:55
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In short, yes, there are a number of robotics companies catering to just your needs. Specifically which apply to you depends on what type of robot you desire. Naturally cost varies with the complexity and durability. For example if you would be satisfied with a differential drive robot for indoor use then the iRobot Create may suit your needs. If you need something for outside use then you could look at Clearpath Robotics products. For a full humanoid robot the Aldeberan Nao is a good choice. For quadrotors check out the AR.Drone Parrot. And I understand Liquid Robotics offers a good selection of water based robots.

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    $\begingroup$ THanks! Just what I was looking for. Though I've worked with Naos before and I'll vouch for them not being durable lol $\endgroup$ – zergylord Jun 27 '13 at 6:20
  • $\begingroup$ I would be interested in hearing more about what your doing because my interests also lie in RL. $\endgroup$ – DaemonMaker Jun 27 '13 at 15:36
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Off-the-shelf robot kits are a good place to start for an amateur. If you're not using system-based kits (i.e. Lego), then they can usually be modified. Mount bumpers around the sides to help it withstand crashes and add a larger battery with a higher milli-amp-hour (mAh) rating for longer battery life. It's tough to provide any more specific solutions than that.

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