Intel plans to bring its fully customizable, 3-D printable robot kit to market by the end of the year, with a consumer version starting around $1,600.
The hardware designs will be freely available online, allowing anyone with access to a 3-D printer to generate and assemble the basic parts. The kit, which will go on sale at 21stCenturyRobot.com, includes everything that can't be printed, including the motors, wires, battery, processor and more.
The consumer model runs on Intel Edison, essentially a low-cost computer on a chip. A more robust research version equipped with an Intel Core i5 processor will cost closer to $16,000. Intel expects that consumers will be able to build custom robots using its technology for less than $1,000 within the next five years.
The robot is also open source, allowing developers to build their own apps and users to download whatever software applications they want to run on their machines.
The company's resident futurist Brian David Johnson arrived at the Code Conference ready to demo his version of the robot, a little white humanoid named Jimmy. His bag of tricks includes walking, talking, tweeting (@21crobot) and dancing.
"It's a stilted guy dance," Johnson cautioned. "Obviously he was taught to dance by geeks."
He said he wanted to design a robot that owners could personalize for their own purposes, making robotics accessible and fun. Functions can include singing along with users, translating languages or achieving that ultimate promise of consumer robotics: Delivering cold beers.
Johnson compares it to mobile apps, which allow owners to make one piece of hardware do a wide variety of tasks.
"It's like a smartphone with legs," he said. "Your robot will be completely different from mine; you customize it and program the artificial intelligence, not by having a PhD in robotics, but by downloading apps."
Johnson debuted Jimmy, part of the company's 21st Century Robot Project, at the Maker Faire in New York last September.
The company eventually plans to offer an app marketplace, the online designs and other robot kits produced with various partners, all at 21stCenturyRobot.com.
This fall, the conference organizers, Make, will publish Johnson's book, "The 21st Century Robot." He wrote the robotics how-to/sci-fi adventure in the hope of inspiring more students and makers to build their own robots. The prerelease version is already available free online.
"The grand vision is to lower the barrier of entry to robotics," Johnson said.
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