Smart, programmable walking robots made of 3D-printable parts have been developed by Edinburgh University startup Robotical, which aims to sell them at affordable prices.
Robotical hopes the new device can emulate the success of the Raspberry Pi due to its similarly low cost and has announced a crowdfunding campaign to support its production with basic kits costing early backers £65.
The robot, dubbed Marty, is due to launch in 2017 and is supposedly modifiable and re-programmable by anyone with access to a computer.
Marty is based on an ‘open-design’ philosophy which ensures everything from the electronics to the 3D-printable mechanical parts can be modified.
The robot is designed to be customisable and upgradable, and can even support an optional onboard Raspberry Pi.
The robot can be programmed over Wi-Fi in languages from Scratch to Python and C++ and this flexibility is intended to allow it to be developed for educational purposes from primary school to more advanced university level.
Marty contains a 3-motor and spring legs that enable him to walk, turn, kick a ball and dance, while the 3D printed parts are designed to bring the cost down and allow people to personalise their robot by adding unique modifications from additional mechanical ‘limbs’ to rollerskates, and even configure them to add new capabilities such as the ability to use sensors and cameras to recognise and interact with humans.
In 2014, the UK government announced that it wants Britain to capture 10 per cent of the burgeoning global industry in robotics and autonomous systems which is being driven by innovations such as driverless vehicles and drones.
Smart humanoid robots are currently very costly and require a high degree of expertise to build and operate, a problem that Marty is attempting to solve.
Robotical ultimately hopes that buyers of the device will be able to customise and modify their own walking robots by downloading robot parts and code from a ‘robotics appstore’ or making their own customisations and sharing them with others.
The first generation of two and four-legged robots have already been programmed to play football, perform choregraphed dance routines and perform more complex functions such as recognising human faces.
Alexander Enoch, the creator of Marty, said: “We want to create a kind of ‘Raspberry Pi for robotics’ that opens up the world of robotics to anybody in an engaging way.
“Advanced walking robots typically cost a lot and require advanced skills in programming and/or electronics to get working. 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.”