Let's Make Robots!

Pet (work in progress)

I have not built my first robot yet - waiting for the parts. But I have the plans for my second robot ready. He, just a little ambition :D.  My second project will be a prototype for a robot that can be sold as a consumer robot. I will call it Pet - working title.

This is how I imagine it. When you order Pet, it will come in a nicely designed box. In that box you will find a shiny sphere, a little smaller than a soccer ball. One size of the ball will be flat. You will also find a smaller box that contains a base plate with an electrical cable. No on/off switch. No manual.

pet unpackaging

So what will you do?

When you plug the base plate connector to the wall and put the ball where it seems to fit, the robot will self activate.

Pet will start to walk around, observing things that have bright colors. It will look at people and then blink its "eyes". Nothing spectacular. But when you take it off the ground, it starts shaking its legs. And when you put it upside down this becomes worse, and it even makes some grumbing noise.

But when you leave it alone, it will slowly open up a bit. I plan to build the prototype with RC, so I can test some behaviors with focus groups. One thing for sure, with its limited set of possibilities it should be very expressive. I am inspired by the work of Guy Hoffman http://on.ted.com/Hoffman.

Technically it means that the legs, internally, will have 4 or 5 DOV each, basically like a humanoid robot. Except that the mechanics are hidden for the most part. The arms or "wings" have 2 or 3 DOV each. And the eyes another 2. And there needs to be some servo to move the parts surrounding the eye to close. So we are talking about a 15 to 20 DOV robot here.

Let me know what you think !!

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Have you thought about having a LED screen for the eyes, instead of mechanical eyelids? That would save you some servos, allow much better expressiveness and also make the debugging easier... Of course a speaker is a must, the right set of sounds is crucial.

Did you mean something like this?

http://www.myjibo.com/

While I had nothing to do with the Jibo, I think it is an excellent robotic user interface.

The creators realized that a human face couldn't work on it, so they went for a highly iconic look. I don't really consider it a robot in my book because it's not mobile, but it does its job well. I wish that I had thought of it.

That thing is barely a talking desk lamp-it doesn't move from where you set it down.

 

Without a manual, your customer service center will be overwhelmed. Also please don't think that people of other cultures (or even yours) will assume that something you think is obvious is really obvious.

I suggest that you explain the charger unit and how to place the robot in it. Plus the legalese of various countries can take a few pages...

Sounds like my basset hound.  It wants attention until it gets it.

Yes, I think you are right about people want an excuse to have a robot. Good insight, thanks. So my idea could be completely off the mark or just on the spot. The only way to find out is to try.

Maybe my robot could serve as an emergeny robot, it can call the ambulance if it sees the owner lying on the floor. At least this could be the excuse elderly people could tell themselves.

The "help, I've fallen and can't get up" web enabled service for old people in the US already has that market pretty well covered.

I've always been fond of the Portal Turret robots for proactive emergency response.

Agreed!

I really like this.  I think it is a great idea.  I believe with the right marketing it could be very popular.

Here are my thoughts on it.  My opinions, of course, so take them for whatever they are worth.  

I would put in some learning algorithms to adapt its behavior as time goes.  Static toys similar to this seem to get old and boring after a short while.  Something along the lines of Furby is what I'm thinking.

Include a powerful processor, running something like Linux and Robotic Operating System.  Just one example, but a powerful computer that can have software updates, rather than something small and fixed like Arduino or similar.  That gives possibilities to add new features and updates.  Also makes it possible for advanced users to program it themselves easily.

Have an Internet connection -- preferably wireless -- to allow communicating with it (software loading, commands, etc) and more importantly so it can access the web.  There could be dedicated sites and it could also "scrape" data from things like weather channels, traffic updates, stock prices, whatever.

Anyway, great idea.  I really like the simple yet flexible design.  I think this could be a real winner.