Update #9 - Pledge before Kickstarter Ends... [ Oct 4th ]
Update #8 - Work in Progress: USB Flash Drive and Robot Brain [ Oct 3rd ]
Update #7 - Multiplo Has Big Plans [ Oct 1st ]
Update #6 - New Educator Building Kit [ Sep 26th ]
Update #5 - Color Fight! [ Sep 25th ]
Update #4 - Production Already Started [ Sep 18th ]
Update #3 - Stretch Goals [ Sep 14th ]
Update #2 - New Reward [ Sep 11th ]
Update #1 - Initial Goal Reached! [ Sep 7th ]
Our project started with a need. We were educators in lack of a flexible teaching material for robotics. We were not satisfied by what was available at the market. It was clear that we needed to find a solution.
We started prototyping robots by laser cutting acrylic and wiring some breadboard to it. Soon we were giving lessons and designing parts that could be changed from one place to other to match the functions needed from the robot being built.
The Solution: a different kind of Kit
Experience at classroom lead us to keep things simple. The system has been used at primary schools, science experiments and even at industry level. So from these prototypes that we were laser cutting in our garage, we got something that had a big potential.
The concept is that you get a box that has a kit inside. We took care of all the technical details in order for each single part to be compatible. Everything you need to build a robot is inside of the box. But you can also add your own parts...
MECHANICAL PARTS: The result of what we have put together is a set of mechanical parts easy to assemble, difficult to break and simple to customize. The system is based in a mathematical relationship between dimensions of components, making them match each other. Below you can see a picture and a video of some of the parts that make a Multiplo Robot Building Kit.
ROBOT BRAINS: We decided to design and manufacture our own controller. Why? Because we wanted something user friendly, yet powerful and hackable. So here is the DuinoBot: an all-in-one robot controller with motor outputs, easy to use sensor connectors, plastic case and many more features. It's also expandable and 100% compatible with Arduino. Please read in the FAQ section for details.
SOFTWARE: We know that it’s not easy to give the first steps into programming. For beginners, we handle in the controllers with a simple set of recorded actions to be commanded by a common TV remote control (please read the FAQ for details).
If you are interested in learning programming, you might want to try our Graphical Software. It allows users with no previous experience in programming to start in no time. That software is also free and Open Source. It has been funded through a KickStarter campaign as well. If you already know programming, you can use the Arduino IDE to program more sophisticated functions.
EVERYTHING WORKING: "Right out of the Box" are the words we like to use about how you should start using your Multiplo Kit. There is no need to program, study a wiring diagram or buy tools. No soldering or protoboard needed. You can build a simple robot in about 45 minutes. Still you will be able to re-program it's controller, add Arduino-compatible shields like WiFi, GPS or your tailor made parts.
TRULY OPEN SOURCE MECHANICS: The whole system is Open Source, but when making mechanical parts, the blueprints are not always enough. We also want to let the world know that we have designed each part in a way that it can be reproduced by simple tools. We want users to start making their own parts and share them in any fabrication workshop (we call this Fab Lab). We welcome people to hack, tweak, modify and improve the system. Read more at the FAQ section.
COMPATIBLE AND EXPANDABLE: Our system allows you to just plug in industry standard sensors. At the same time, our own sensors are also compatible with nearly any 3rd party robot controller. We specially encourage users to get either an original Arduino or any compatible board. There are several interesting options and we already give support to some of them. You can also get original Arduino(R) TinkerKit sensors, or third party compatible sensors. We will be adding support to more devices.
FULLY DOCUMENTED: We had prepared pictorial assembly guides, video tutorials and a full set of examples. We will be posting them during the KickStarter Campaign. You can find some of the assembly guides that are currently being used at schools at our website.
What are the Funds for?
We are now a team that includes a teacher, two engineers and a specialist in robotics. We are very proud of sticking to our principles. We will keep our word of licensing 100% of our work free and Open Source.
Our running costs as a small startup are expensive. We want to lower the price of our kits in order to flood the world with cheap and meaningful robots. But for that, we need to scale production.
Our goal is to make this technology available to more people. Also to get other developers on board, people that also think that the world should be a better place and share things. Even if we cannot make it at this KickStarter Campaign, we are releasing all the source files for free.
We develop this system in order to prototype robots. But we ended inventing a platform to build things. We have been using it at public schools and it had proved to be suitable as teaching material. They are currently using it for STEM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) for young students.
Making a robot was a challenge some time ago and only few could have access to that. We want to reach a critical mass that allow us to break boundaries. We have found Arduino philosophy inspiring. We think that it's time that their concept spreads to other areas.
We want our fully Open Source Robot Kit to get into hands of educators, artists and any kind of creative people. It is our dream to get robotics close to people. We think it’s time for a change. Robotics for Everybody!
1. Starter Kit: It's technically called "basic differential traction robot ", with 2 motors, the DuinoBot controller, battery holder, the IR RC5 sensor + Remote control and 2 analog IR sensors that can see close obstacles or black/white differences. It has two wheels with tyres plus caster wheels. Everything to get started is also included (nut and bolts, screws, small tools and the USB cable). It does not include batteries but it comes with a battery holder for 3 AA batteries (we recommend rechargeable NiMH). The kit is made with Multiplo parts, so it can be expanded and combined with spare parts. We do plan to sell parts in the future in our online shop. Also, it can be combined with other Multiplo kits or with user-made custom parts. The robot will be able to do basic things such as repeat a sequence of movements, follow a line, avoid near obstacles, follow commands from the remote control, etc.. And the DuinoBot can do everything an Arduino can, plus play music tones (integrated buzzer), control DC metal geared motors (such as those included in the Starter Kit), etc.
2. Building Kit: This is more like a generic kit, that gives you more options of assembly. The three robots we showed in the chart of the update #2 are some of the possible assemblies. We look forward to get other robots designed by the community. The electronics contain all the elements from the Starter Kit but extends it with an Ultrasonic Ranger, LDR sensors (to detect visible light) and LED lights to enhance the IR detectors. The ranger can measure distances upt to 4 m aprox. The mechanical parts are more than the double of those in the Starter Kit, and it includes 2 servo motors, which lets the user to build robots with pan-tilt sensors or a "2 Degrees Of Freedom gripper" (1DOF arm + 1DOF gripper). The activities you can do are much more interesting. There might be some surprises we are keeping for a further update, but stay tuned till the campaign ends. The kit includes 4 wheels with tyres (plus 2 caster wheels for simpler robots). These wheels let the user mount 4 wheeled chassis and control the direction with a servo, just like in real cars. So grippers, arms, pan-tilt, much more sensors and at least twice the mechanical parts and 2 servos are the differences with the Starter. Oh, forgot to tell you that this kit also includes some gears.
3. Monster Kit: It's not exactly 2 Building kits, but we think it's a better deal to buy one Monster Kit than buying two Building Kits. It includes 6 servos ( three times more than in Building Kits). This allows the user to mount robots with 2 arms with 3 DOF on each arm. Also, it has nearly twice the mechanical parts, except for the wheels and some other minor details. But with the servos, wheels, and 2 DuinoBots, plus the communication cable to use them in parallel controlling the same bot, the possibilities are endless. The user can make 2 smaller autonomous robots. Or one with the 2 arms similar to the one of the picture. We didn't take pictures yet, but you can assemble a six-wheeled rover pretty similar to real trucks: 4 wheeled traction and steering with other two wheels.
No. The robot controller is fully programmable, so the robots can take decisions based on their sensors readings. But in all kits including a controller, you can start playing with your robot without programming if you want. On these kits, we do include the remote control, the sensor and the cables. The purpose is to develop a first approach to the robot to start using your robot with a remote controller. The final purpose is to get people interested in learning how to program them in order to perform more advanced actions.
Absolutely! Both the Starter and the Building kits come with an IR control and an IR sensor to enable the user to start playing right out the box. It was a "quick & dirty" solution to enhance the first user interaction.
But the DuinoBot controller is Arduino-compatible, so nearly any WiFi, Bluetooth or XBee standard shield can be added to enable more advanced communications. In fact we made successful tests with BT, WiFi and XBee and we plan to release examples in the near future.
Talking about mobile applications, what if you could program the robot behavior from your phone? We have great plans... stay tuned !
What is the color of multiplo parts? I saw some of your robot photo in black while some are multi color.
The parts will be manufactured in different colors, according to a survey of backers. Some of the robots on the videos are made with pre-production parts of black color. But the final production pieces will be nicely colored. We will do our best to keep them elegant also. We really want to improve the user experience with Multiplo kits, and the aesthetics is important. Please give us feedback, we need it!
Yes, of course. That is the beauty of being open. We welcome other developers to use their own components and software. We will be happy to help them to integrate their hardware in our software as well. These last months there has been several news about Graphical Interfaces, please keep us updated.
We have designed an open source board called DuinoBot. It was carefully thought for the robotics usage at schools and homes. While it's 100% Arduino(R) compatible, we think it's easier to use and also more capable. It includes the following features, among others:
- Easy to use colored sensor and motor connectors.
- 2x DC Motor control outputs (thanks to its built in motor controller).
- Dual voltage booster (from 3.6V to 12V and to 5V). This allows the usage of common 12V DC motors and 5V standard sensors, with just 3 AA rechargable NiMH batteries, or a LiPo cell.
- Improved user interface: Integrated buzzer, user button, power switch (no need to unplug the power supply to switch it off).
- Extra serial port plus standard Arduino(R) shield connectors.
- Plastic case (Which is also open source, and can be made with a laser cutter.)
Although we already have a release model, we are designing a new, updated version. One of its major improvements is that it will be completely driverless (You don't need to install anything to make it work in your computer.) It will also feature a mini-speaker, allowing to play simple tones, MIDI music or a recorded sound of few seconds. And will feature a more powerful CPU.
The term Fab Lab refers to Fabrication Laboratory. And it normally means that if you are compatible with that, your technology does not require to open a mould or an expensive technique that only big factories can make.
The reason we are compatibles is that we are using a "down to earth " proportion to any mechanical part. And this makes it not only easy to manufacture, but a lot easier to design. Our tolerances allow any small workshop to manufacture their customized "Multiplo compatibles".
In our case, this means that you can laser cut, 3D print or drill your own parts in an easy way. You can try to experiment in different materials. You can use any CNC workshop and acquire raw acrylic, ABS, aluminum or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medium-density_fibreboard to craft your own parts.
We already have different sensors developed and manufactured by ourselves. In general, if a sensor is Arduino-compatible, it will work with Multiplo. For some very common sensors there is even an icon at http://minibloq.org/ ready to use, plus an Arduino Library. We are also closing deals with 3rd party manufacturers to give full support to their sensor lines. Here are some of the most common compatible sensors:
If you know programming, the answer is http://arduino.cc/en/Main/Software. If you are learning, it's fair to say that we have developed http://minibloq.org/ as part of the system. Remarkably other people have been successful with other approaches like http://blog.ardublock.com/, http://tecnodacta.com.ar/gira/projects/physical-etoys/ and http://www.modk.it/. If you are a developer, please let us know what other options we should recommend.
No, you can use other hardware with Multiplo robots. Even non Arduino-compatible boards. In some of them, you will need to add an expansion board to control DC motors. Here are some examples of those motor controllers: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9815, https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9571 and http://arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoMotorShieldR3.
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