About this project
***Want these robots but don't have time to think through the options? The BOTS_ALIVE DOUBLE BOT KIT is most popular and is also our recommendation.***
bots_alive turns remote-controlled Hexbug® Spiders into playful, smart, and autonomous creatures.
A way to inspire children to embrace technology and engineering
"If you wish to build a ship, do not divide your people into teams and send them to the forest to cut wood. Instead, teach them to long for the vast and endless sea." (Often attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.)
There are many excellent robot products that aim to teach children to code. Those robots build the ship. We see the curiosity-driven play of bots_alive to be the prior step: building a passion in children for the human-centered design, technology, engineering, and math that drives the robots.
Autonomous robots that play and find their way
We create the world around these robots. We can make it easy for them... or difficult.
We craft mazes and obstacles courses. The robots try to solve them with unusually organic behavior.
One bots_alive smartphone kit gives life to 1 or 2 Hexbug® Spiders.
Teach your bot. Improve its skills.
A new, more organic kind of character artificial intelligence
Our goal is to make robots whose behavior appears alive more than any machine you’ve interacted with.
bots_alive robots hesitate, look around curiously, and make mistakes. They're unpredictable.
All of this comes from a new category of character artificial intelligence that we’re pioneering. It started at the MIT Media Lab in research by founder Brad Knox. We describe in depth in the FAQ at the end.
Computer vision for augmented reality:
Hold the phone. Or prop it up and play below.
Both iOS and Android are supported.
It's easy to set up.
Suggested pledge levels and rewards:
When we reach $50,000, sumo wrestling between 2 robots is unlocked.
Put your child in the role of puzzle designer
We've built this product with kids 6 and up in mind. We play-tested the robots shortly before the campaign.
Our young testers built mazes, obstacle courses, and even towers. Then they sat back and watched the robot attempt their challenge.
The robot's organic behavior rewards the kids for their designs, since the robot appears to struggle, falter, and sometimes succeed at the tasks. Kids cite the robots' unpredictability and expressivity as a key reason why building challenges are so much fun.
What do kids do in these play tests? See for yourself:
Our companion app controls the robots, but we designed bots_alive for kids to focus on the real world. The screen is just a reference to occasionally check. We've also seen the robots promote group play.
We expect to learn a lot from you and other supporters during this Kickstarter campaign. We've seen children as young as 4 and as old as 13 play intensely with the robots. And we've received genuine interest from adults.
We'd like to thank the following people or groups who have provided repeated mentorship, significant collaboration, or other support:
- Gor Baghdasaryan (video editing)
- David Shackelford and Anthony Johnson (created musical score for our main video)
- Dustin Silverman (collaborated as software engineer)
- Mike Reimers (collaborated as mechatronics engineer)
- Mike Smith (collaborated as electrical engineer)
- Gabriel Lopez-Mobilia (collaborated on user testing)
- Peter Stone (robotics/AI professor at UT Austin)
- Mike Nuttall (cofounder of IDEO)
- John Kestner (founder of Supermechanical)
- Leo Trottier (CEO of Cleverpet)
- Barbara Laudenheimer (former owner/manager of Toy Fair in Shreveport)
- Ryan Kuder (Managing Director at Techstars)
- Mike Goslin (VP, Production and Content at Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media)
- Karen Allen (Karen Allen Consulting)
- Bob Christopher (former CEO of Ugobe, makers of Pleo)
Legal disclaimer: Hexbug® is the registered trademark of Innovation First International (IFI). IFI neither sponsors nor endorses this product.
Risks and challenges
Most of the promised software functionality is already developed. The play test videos show as much. And the only hardware we have to create ourselves are the decals and the plastic vision blocks. The Hexbug® Spiders and IR blaster will come from established and reliable partners.
That means we aren't manufacturing moving parts, electromechanical systems, or any of the other complexities of creating a custom robot. For these reasons, we don't need investment from venture capitalists to deliver to you.
We have high confidence in our iOS app's stability and performance, and we've done enough testing on our Android app to be confident we can support it. We develop in Unity, which compiles directly to both iOS and Android, easing cross-platform development.
That said, we have included a few months of buffer time to be able to handle the normal level of unexpected bugs and hiccups. We're highly optimistic that we will ship on time.
Your pledge covers the cost of manufacturing the vision blocks, purchasing other components, packaging, and shipping. We are also supported financially by an SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation (award number: 1648466).Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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