Until recently, robots have been largely the milieu of research institutions and niche robotics companies specializing in the field. But Google's purchase last year of eight robotics companies in six months -- including Boston Dynamics -- shows that even mainstream technology companies are starting to get in on the apparent robot revolution that's brewing.
Chip maker and tech giant Intel is the latest company to jump on board with plans in the next few months to sell a design-your-own robot kit that will allow people to develop an interactive, humanoid robot, the company unveiled at the Re/code Code Conference in California.
Jimmy is a 3D-printed robot that can be made with a kit Intel soon plans to offer for about $1,600 that will allow people to build their own customizable, 3D-printed robot at home.
The 21st Century Robot Project -- the brainchild of Intel researcher Brian David Johnson, a self-dubbed "futurist" in a video about the project on the Intel website -- is a collaboration between the company and University of Southern California, the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, and Trossen Robotics.
The result of the project is a kit -- complete with open-source code and 3D plans for printing the robot, called "Jimmy" -- that can be purchased for about $1,600 and allow people to design and build a walking, talking, and even tweeting Jimmy of their own at home. Using the resources provided, people can program the robot to interact with them and perform tasks of their choice, according to Intel.
Johnson's concept for the project is to take the robot out of the lab and the realm of the wealthy and give everyone the ability to design and program their own robot just as easily as they customize apps on their mobile devices, according to The 21st Century Robot Project website:
We believe that everyone should be able to imagine, design, build, and program their own robot. We believe that a robot should be as individual as the person who created him/her/it. And one of the most effective ways to personalize your robot is to program it. But as the saying goes we don't think a robot should cost $25,000 and we don't think you should have to have a PhD to do that programming! What if programming a robot was a simple as downloading an app?
Jimmy's secret sauce -- and the technology that makes this intelligent programming possible -- is that it features a full onboard, state-of-the-art microcomputer system in the form of an Intel Core i5 processor nook, a 4-inch x 4-inch single-board computer that provides CPU power on a mobile humanoid platform, said engineers from Intel's partner Trossen Robotics in a video the company posted on YouTube (watch it below).
This computer will provide developers that want to build upon the core platform tools like USB 3.0, gigabit Ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth, and HDMI right onboard the robot. This means they can program the robot externally through a separate computer, or plug a monitor and mouse directly into the robot and work that way.
Check out the video, which also describes the concept behind Jimmy and shows what the robot can do.