According to an article published this week in Technology Review, a new kit could make robotics easy for anyone.
Behind the white cardboard petals of a robot flower, which can open and close depending on the light or catch a ball on the fly by detecting it using infrared sensors, lies the new standardized Qwerk robotics platform, developed by Carnegie Mellon University ( CMU).
Qwerk is designed so that anyone can use it to build their own custom internet-connected robot. It is a platform that CMU computer scientist Illah Nourbakhsh hopes will start a new open-source robotics movement and "democratize robot design for people who are intimidated by current techniques and parts."
Contrary to current kits, most of which require a pre-fabricated set of parts, Qwerk is, according to the CMU robotics team, the first low-cost, easy-to-use robot controller that can house power regulators, Modifiable hardware and software and motor controllers for Wi-Fi Internet connection and easy programming.
The CMU team has also developed some easy-to-build robot “recipes” for machines, such as the cardboard flower, that can be assembled in a few hours with standard parts found in any store. Together, the “recipes” and the platform make up the Telepresence Robotic Kit (TeRK).
But why build a robot flower? Because in addition to opening and closing the petals and picking things up, you can have music, read the news aloud through your Internet connection and adopt various positions depending on the mood of your manufacturer. But the point is, you don't have to build the flower. "We expect people to improvise and make unusual and unexpected changes to create something of their own," thus contributing to the establishment of robotics, Nourbakhsh notes.
With Qwerk and its catalog of design recipes, the TeRK project joins the broad initiative to create a wide variety of robots that go beyond the traditional ones. "Previously, designers have not paid enough attention to creating robots that are not mobile and will appeal to users' imaginations," says Mitchel Resnick, director of the Lifelong Kindergarten research group at the MIT Media Lab. Resnick's group has developed "LEGO Mindstorms" and "PicoCrickets," two building kits similar to TeRK in terms of purpose.
Qwerk has been marketed by Charmed Labs, of Austin (Texas), with a price of 349 dollars (253 euros).
Source: Technology Review