Edinburgh University startup Robotical has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support production of a ‘smart’ walking robot made of 3D-printable parts, which can be modified and re-programmed by anyone.
The new technology, which could hit the global markets by 2017, aims to become a ‘Raspberry Pi for robotics’, ushering in an era of personalised walking robots that can be built and programmed by the general public.
Some of the best educational robots around now are wheeled, but a walking robot can be much more expressive and engaging while also allowing more complex aspects of robotics to be explored
In 2014, the UK Government announced that it wants Britain to capture 10% of a burgeoning global industry in robotics and autonomous systems-which is being driven by innovations such as driverless vehicles and drones – but efforts are being hampered by a major STEM skills gap.
Yet smart humanoid robots are currently very costly and require a high degree of expertise to build and operate, putting them beyond the reach of most parents, schools and universities.
Marty is based on an ‘open-design’ philosophy which ensures everything from the electronics to the 3D-printable mechanical parts can be modified by kids, makers, and educators.
It’s very customisable and upgradable, and can even support an optional onboard Raspberry Pi. The robot can be programmed over WiFi in languages from Scratch to Python and C++, and provides opportunities for learning from primary school all the way up to university level.
The unique 3-motor and spring legs enable Marty to walk, turn, kick a ball and bust out some pretty impressive dance moves, while bringing the cost down and making it easier to program. The aim is to help beginners learn the art of programming, robotics, electronics and mechanical design and bring smart walking robots to homes, universities and school classrooms across Britain.
The 3D-printable parts will allow people to personalise their robot by adding modifications to each robot from additional mechanical ‘limbs’ to roller skates, and even configure them to add new capabilities such as the ability to use sensors and cameras to recognise and interact with humans.
The first generation of two and four-legged robots can be programmed to play football, perform choregraphed dance routines and perform more complex functions from ‘teleoperation’ to recognising human faces. They can even be controlled from smartphones.
Marty was developed by Alexander Enoch (below) during his PhD at Edinburgh University as a response to large, complex robotics.
Alexander knew that he could produce a small, low-cost, easy to use robot that could inspire others to become interested in programming and robotics – while still being something that could be used even up to university level. He commented: “We want to create a kind of “Raspberry Pi for robotics” that opens up the world of robotics to anybody in an engaging way.
“Some of the best educational robots around now are wheeled, but a walking robot can be much more expressive and engaging while also allowing more complex aspects of robotics to be explored. By reducing the number of motors needed to drive movement, and making the electronics and 3D-printed parts easy to modify and expand on, we can open up the world of advanced robotics to the general public. Marty lets anyone build a working, walking robot, and all you need is a smartphone or a laptop to get stuck into programming”
Marty could be shipping out across the world by January 2017 if Robotical’s crowdfunding campaign of £50,000 is met. The crowdfunding campaign is now live on Indiegogo.
For more information visit https://www.robotical.io/