Smartibot: The world's first A.I. enabled cardboard robot
Build an A.I. robot out of anything! From potatoes to clay, you can build your own robot and re-use the parts!
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Tue, July 31 2018 1:00 PM UTC +00:00.
The world’s first Artificial Intelligence enabled cardboard robot that you build yourself.
Smartibot works with your smartphone, meaning you can use your mobile as a remote control, or by attaching it to your robot, as it’s brain.
The Smartibot app contains a powerful A.I. called YOLO which can recognise objects Smartibot sees such as people, cars, dogs and bicycles. Without any programming you can tell your robot to follow you around with a cup of tea, chase your dog or your cat out of your bedroom or even follow your toy car.
As well as the A.I. robot, Smartibot comes with cardboard parts to make two additional robots!
Teabot - Which can deliver your tea, G&T, or anything else you desire Unicorn - It's a freakin' Unicorn!!! (yeah we are excited too)
Build a robot out of anything
With Smartibot you can keep on building. You can build your robots out of almost anything around the house, even a potato!
You just re-use the circuit board, motors and battery box and attach them to your magnificent creation. The only limit is your imagination.
Invent robots without writing code
We’ve designed Smartibot to enable you to build robots that are as complex as you want. What does this mean? You can connect up to 14 motors (4 DC ones and 10 servos) so you can build wheeled robots, two legged robots, four legged robots, robot arms, not to mention cars, trikes, hovercraft, airboats, probably even aeroplanes (though we’ve not tried that yet but excited to see what you come up with!).
With all this flexibility in how you build your robots, we want to give you flexibility in how you control them. The app allows you to design custom controllers to suit your robot and define how your robot behaves without needing to write any code.
Built a robot tank and need a tank controller? Or want to build a band and make a robot Xylophone which requires eight buttons? How about a robot water pistol turret and a single giant fire button?
You’ll be able to design all of these inside the app, just by dropping the control elements on the screen and choosing what motors they control. Easy!
You can also use the app to control your creations using the A.I. just select what types of objects you want it to look out for and start it up!
Hack your toys (and your other stuff)
Smartibot runs on 4 AA batteries, just like most of your electric toys. This means you can open them up, connect Smartibot to their motors and control them from your phone, or make them programmable. This doesn’t just apply to toys. Smartibot can control anything that runs on 4 or fewer AA batteries if you are prepared to get busy with some wire cutters and a screw driver.
Smartibot is also compatible with most Radio Controlled model kits! Just swap it for your R/C receiver and drive your model from your phone, or attach your phone and make your model self-driving.
But I like to code!
Don’t worry we’ve got you. We have designed Smartibot so you can do as much as possible without needing to write any code - but it wouldn’t be much of a robot kit if it wasn’t programmable!
Smartibot is expandable
We’ve created two expansion boards so far:
A gorgeous, super-bright, 144 LED display that you can use to add changeable faces or graphics to your robot, to play games, or anything else that needs a whole load of twinkling white lights.
A board with two laser distance sensors and a gesture sensor that you can use make your robot avoid obstacles, prevent it driving off the table, control it with gestures, or anything else that need insanely capable digital sensors.
We’ve got loads more expansion boards in the pipeline, from sensors for line following to a microphone and speaker to add sound to your robots.
Ever since I shipped the Crafty Robots to our 1,600 wonderful members of the Kickstarter Community (on time!) I’ve wanted to create a robot that embodied the same fun and creativity ethos but took advantage of the latest technology to be truly smart.
Whilst participating in the British Council’s ‘Hello Shenzhen’ exchange program I met Janek in Litchee Lab, a Shenzhen makerspace. We both agreed robot building was more difficult, expensive and less fun than it needed to be and we started designing the robot kit of our dreams.
When we realised that smart electronics needed equally smart mobile software we brought in Akram, with whom I’ve built apps, that are used everywhere from roadworks sites to rehabilitation clinics to sensory rooms, for our commercial clients. Another random meeting in Machines Room, a makerspace in London, brought Rehana on board who has helped create all the amazing demos on this page.
15 months after Janek and I started designing robot kit of our dreams, and hundreds of cardboard robot prototypes later, the Smartibot is finally here and even smarter and more fun than we had dared hope.
To keep the cost of Smartibot as low as possible need to buy the components in high volumes and to build the circuit boards with the bluetooth chip and antenna built in. This means we need to put them through certification. We also need to make dies to cut out the cardboard parts and run them on a packaging line. Finally we need to finish off the app and set up the MakeCode integration.
To cover all of these upfront costs we need to make the first run of Smartibots quite big, which is why we’ve come to Kickstarter. We really need your help to get Smartibots out into the world.
Janek Mann - Originally from Germany but now based in Shenzhen in China, Janek is a highly experienced hardware engineer and researcher with a specialism in wirelessly connected embedded systems. Janek is an enthusiastic contributor to the Shenzhen maker scene and, having designed hardware that is already used by educators, is excited to have created a tool that will hopefully help makers all over the world.
Rehana Al-Soltane - Rehana combines a background in Psychology and Pedagogical Science with a strong interest in Artificial Intelligence and a passion for making. She is also fluent in four languages and is the fastest learner anyone at Machines Room has ever seen.
Akram Hussein - Akram is a London-based software engineer who has written code for everything from Dyson’s robot vacuum cleaner to apps used in healthcare, music, construction and special needs education. Akram is part of the ‘FIx Team’ in the BBC’s flagship technology program ‘The Big Life Fix’ where leading inventors build one off pieces of technology to solve problems for disabled people.
Ross Atkin - Ross is a product designer, engineer and researcher with extensive experience designing and building connected products for major manufacturing companies. His work focuses mainly on assistive technology and physical accessibility and, along with Akram, he is a member of BBC’s ‘The Big Life Fix’ ‘Fix Team’. Ross feels very lucky to have such a talented team helping him make and deliver Smartibot.
We will ship Smartibots in October and November of 2018 so backers receive them in time for Christmas.
This project would not have been possible without the help of some amazingly talented and generous people. Janek, Rehana and Akram all brought their incredible skills to create something amazing. Ala Pytlewska dusted it with some extra visual magic and Claire Poulter and Alice Russell captured that, plus all the fun we had, on video. Bibi Nelson, Dylan Bahnan, Mark Dale, Hilary Kalmbach, sin chi Wan, Bradley Ottaway, Martha Bogert and the crew at Wild and Wooly agreed to participate in some very strange sounding activities and produced robots that totally exceeded my expectations of how awesome they could possibly be.
This project would never have started without the British Council’s 'Hello Shenzhen' exchange program, organised by Liz Corbyn and Marc Barto. It’s also benefited hugely from the support of Nat Hunter, Kristin Luke, Gareth Owen-Lloyd, and Mark Dale at Machines Room, as well as the advice and assistance of Helen Steer, Julian Vaissières and the rest of the Machines Room community. You probably wouldn’t have found out about it without Heather Delaney.
The project has benefited from a huge amount of really useful advice and input from too many very smart and generous people to name here, plus the astonishing patience and support of my wife Isabel.
The music in the video is by Steve Combs and Loyalty Freak Music.
Risks and challenges
I am very proud, after my previous Kickstarter campaign, to have manufactured almost 4,500 Crafty Robots and shipped them to over 1,600 backers on time. I am extremely keen to retain this record in this campaign. That's why it is running in the summer, to make sure we have time to make your Smartibots in time for Christmas.
Having worked at Dyson, I understand how much of a challenge it is to put complex electromechanical products, that have many interconnected custom plastic parts, reliably into production.
This is why I’ve scrupulously avoided designing the Smartibot to include plastic casings, custom gearing, mechanisms, or anything else that keeps manufacturing engineers up at night. All of this ensures Smartibot is as simple as possible to manufacture
Like the Crafty Robot before it, the Smartibot kit is made up of a circuit board and cardboard parts, both of which are well suited to reliable high-throughput manufacture. We have already manufactured two batches of fully functional circuit boards in the same factory that will do the main production run. All of the Smartibots you see in the videos use these boards.
Aside from these parts, and one very small injection moulding, all of the other parts of the kits are already mass produced in large volumes by a choice of suppliers.
In short, whilst designing Smartibot we have worked ruthlessly to maximise robot fun whilst minimising manufacturing complexity.
On the software front we have an app that works both as a remote control and in A.I. mode to make the robot autonomous. We still need to get the user configurable controller working stably but, having already built and deployed apps with similar functionality for commercial clients, we are confident we will manage it.
We also have to set up servers to deploy a custom instance of MakeCode to program the boards. Again this is work to do but we already have CODAL, the compatible on chip framework, up and running on our circuit boards, so are confident that MakeCode will play nice with Smartibot once we have it set up on our servers.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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