In the Transformers movies, the robots that morph into different shapes are autonomous, sentient beings -- which, of course, is part of their scary allure. The toys on which the movies are based are static. Their parts can be rearranged to turn them into animals, vehicles, or other machines, but that's as far as the transformation goes.
Now the hobbyist firm Brave Robotics has created a robot that morphs from a sleek, sporty car into a humanoid that looks like a tough customer. (Watch a video of the transformation below.)
This is version 7.2 of what's been an ongoing project since 2002, according to the timeline on the company's website. The production version of this remote-controlled robot comes with a WiFi video camera, which streams its data to a tablet PC for viewing. The robot also can shoot darts from its arms. The kit includes a controller, batteries, a charger, and motion-editing software. The robot is delivered preprogrammed.
This spring, EnGadget reported on a similar robot from JS Robotics that uses 22 servo motors.
The latest Brave Robotics offering, which debuted at Maker Faire Tokyo 2012, changes its shape in a few seconds. Earlier versions of the 1/12 scale robot transformed slowly and clunkily. By version 4, when the robot was in car mode, it could drive on its tires and turn by steering, according to the timeline. In its humanoid form, it could walk and looked humanoid.
The designers revamped it twice after that, solving different design problems each time. By version 6, they had come up with a new transforming system, and they were using a CNC milling machine to make parts. In the next few versions, they simplified the system, and it began to resemble its more elegant current version. With version 7.1, the designers began using a 3D printer, which they designed and built themselves, to make the robot's parts.
Designs of other robots have begun with hobbyist or toy versions. We wrote in August about the Phoenix autonomous flapping robotic birds built by the Robot Locomotion Group of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Those robots started as hobbyist radio-controlled ornithopters. The group's Agile Flight Project team designed them as a platform for investigating motor control of maneuverable flapping-wing flight in an outdoor setting.
The Brave Robotics robot, of course, isn't autonomous -- yet. According to the timeline, by 2030, the company wants to build a 1/1 scale transforming robot that anyone can ride; that robot will be able to think using a "super AI system." I suspect that's not a joke.
Nadine, I did mean Nancy--I was replying to her second comment on this story, the one about movies and media and engineering expertise, not about toys. That said, I agree--maybe Neiman Marcus would carry this as a toy!
Ann-I'm not sure if you meant Nancy or Nadine when referencing the the toy comment but you'd be surprised at how high some consumers are willing to pay for a toy like this. It's not for ToysRUs. Like I said, it could be in Neiman Marcus next Christmas.
It think there are at least two more Transfromers movies in the making. There are definite co-branding possibiities or at least a cameo in the next movie.
I think Nancy's point is well taken--I would not have guessed this elegant transformer was possible without CGI, until I discovered this video. I agree with Battar--this is too pricey for a toy, but military apps immediately come to mind. I like RAWeng's idea of a transforming ATV
I'm surprised that no one has seen the potential here of a transforming vehicle.
Imagine if you would an injured person in a hazardous environment such as a mountainside where it would be difficult to access them. An ATV style vehicle could navigate the rough terrain where it could, transform itself to a climbing robot where wheels would be useless. Then when it reached the injured person transform to a triage robot tend to the immediate injuries, gather the patient and return them to where human emergency personnel can treat the patient.
Not much use as a toy because of cost/reliability issues.
Can't patent it when you have a whole shelf from ToysRus plus a bunch of TV action movies standing in for prior art. (Examiners office action - "claim 1 is obvious in view of episode 17 of "power rangers" and the toy I bought my 6 year old son last Easter")
Quite ingenious and it looks like a fun toy, but agree with jmiller that I'm not seeing alot of practical application for this. Are there any for the larger study and field of robotics, Ann? What could other researchers glean from this? Of course, there is nothing wrong for making something like this for the sake of selling an interesting product and, like others said, to encourage young people to explore science, math, robotics, engineering and other technical fields. Interesting story.
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