As I mentioned in my previous column, my son and I want to explore robotics as a hobby and a learning experience. We don't have an unlimited budget, so I wanted to do some estimating of what it would cost to do it using different technology standards. In the first part, I explored Lego Mindstorms, but the open-hardware (and free software) Arduino system has been getting better and better. So I want to consider that possibility in this column and make a comparison to see which is a better option for us.
Manufacturing has been getting smaller, cheaper, and more flexible for years. It's now possible to make products as sophisticated as smart cel-phones, PDAs, toys, clothing, books, and even houses in almost any shape or form you want down to very small numbers. The mass production barrier has fallen, so that today, it's possible for a home inventor, hobbyist, or crafter to create almost anything by assembling one-off manufactured components, either from a service or from affordable home-fabrication equipment (or a combination of these).