Meet Jimmy, Intel's DIY robot, a 'smartphone with legs'

Intel's robotic future
Intel's robotic future

It's the age of customization, so why shouldn't you be able to design your own robot and then print it out on a 3-D printer?

Intel is coming out with a new "open source, 3-D printable robot" based on its Edison chip this fall for $1,600. The company will provide a kit with motors, batteries, a set of design files and a series of customizable apps that will enable users to decide how they want the robot to look, and what they want it to do.

Intel futurist Brian David Johnson says users will have the ability to customize their robot to their own specifications. Johnson said you could make the robot into a dog, who could dance the tango, and then add an alarm clock app, and then the robotic dog would dance the tango when it's time to wake up. It could also, for example, be used to remind a grandparent when to take their medicine.

It's part of Intel's "21st Century Robot Project," and Johnson said the company wants to provide tools so that robotic innovation can be put in the hands of consumers of all ages.

"We don't really know all the things the robot can do. What we say is: It's up to you. It's up to the different developers and different people to figure out what they want their robot to do," Johnson said.

The robotic prototype that Johnson demonstrated in San Francisco recently is called Jimmy. Actually there were two Jimmys: a consumer version for $1,600, and a bigger, more sophisticated model for $16,000, designed for advanced university experiments and for businesses to come up with new industrial applications.

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Meet Intel's Jimmy the Robot
Source: Intel Labs | Facebook

"For the Edison Jimmy, we really think about it as a smartphone. It's really a smartphone with legs. So imagine having all the different apps on your smartphone, now imagine if those apps could get up and follow you around," said Johnson, adding Intel is working with Trossen Robotics to get the kits to consumers.

Johnson, who has a book coming out this fall about the future of robotics, said he's most excited about unleashing the tools that will empower people to pursue their own ideas.

"We now have a generation of young minds that are unencumbered by the past, and these simple-to-build robots will enable them to push their imaginations to the edge," Johnson added.

Customizable robots weren't the only future technology on display at Intel's "Future Showcase" in San Francisco. The company also is working to solve the riddle of charging all your wireless devices.

Intel is developing what it's calling a "wireless charging bowl." The technology uses "smart charging coil technology," and would potentially solve the problem of "spaghetti junction," when you have several devices and chargers all tangled by an electrical power strip.

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The company is also working on a "smart solar controller," another energy solution for powering devices. Intel has a prototype 500 cm solar panel that uses the variable DC current output directly rather than converting the sun's energy into AC.

—By CNBC's Mark Berniker