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For those who remember the original Transformers or Go-Bots brand of toys, this Kickstarter project will perhaps conjure the fondest of memories. Shenzen-based project, Ai.Frame creates miniature humanoid robots, fully customisable and open-source, fit for tweaking. It’s also the next big hit on Kickstarter.
Started in 2012 by Chinese innovators Jiaqi Hu and Zebo Sun, Ai.Frame has blown past its initial funding goal in just two days with five weeks to go. The most affordable robot is available for backers at just US$179.
“There are many great robotic inventions on the market,” notes the developers, “but in the meantime, for most people, they are too expensive, ($5 000 or more, open-source ones are even more expensive), they are less personalized, they are too difficult to assemble and control.”
Backers have a choice of two base models — an armless T-Rex styled critter or a fully humanoid robot that can perform electric slides, shoot rubber band missiles, or even play football. Both are fully customisable, using open source hardware, including micro-Arduino chips and a host of sensory add-ons. The mesh of infrared, ultrasonic and gyroscopic sensors ensures that both robots can avoid objects, regain balance if temporarily lost and even pick itself up when it falls down “in less than five seconds.”
More sensors, body armour and interesting appendages can be added at will, which will please those crafty enough to 3D-print components themselves. Programmers can also add over “300 distinctive motions” alongside the ten already offered. Controlling the robot varies from extremely simple to vastly complex.
Users have a choice of an Android or iOS app, through which users can programme or command the craft. Additional methods include a nifty modded PlayStation controller and the US$699 “Wild Flower” — a body-mounted, 3D-printed exoskeleton that has Pacific Rim written all over it. Of course, voice commands are also heeded, giving the robot an incredible variety of control.
The creators of Ai.Frame hope to begin shipping packs as early as December 2014, just in time for Christmas. Based on its Kickstarter success thus far, expect these to be extremely popular by year-end.