Robotics’ answer to Raspberry Pi lets you build a robot army on the cheap

This adorable little robot, called LEO, has been designed for hackers, educators and those who want to be able to hone their skills with mobile machines.

The robot kits allow all sorts of adaptations, including the addition of a Raspberry Pi, user controls, quick change wheels and more. Included in the array of options is smartphone control which will help to enable the robot to travel anywhere.

The technology is also controllable with cult open-source prototyping platform Arduino.

It has recently appeared funding website Kickstarter and has already had several backers pledging money to make the project a reality.

Ambitiously, the project is trying to raise a total of £50,000 for the production of the robots, with the hope that the product will help to improve people’s knowledge of coding and development.

Creative Robitics Ltd, a company that makes creative products for robots builders, is the behind the hackable robot.

It hopes the campaign will be successfully funded in April and by August the assembly, testing and packaging for shipping to backers will be completed. The parts for LEO are to be made in China and assembled in the UK.

The company says: “Leo is designed for experimenters and tinkerers. It includes two headers for standard hobby servos which can be used to create pan/tilt systems for mounting sensors or for experimenting with more advances steering using servos or ‘Mars rover’ style rocker suspension.

“We even made sure that the battery holders on the LEO pcb can be located in several positions so you can play around with the weight distribution and make room for floor sensors and suspension systems.”

Leobot3

Backers who decide to pledge more than £715 will receive a swarm of 6 LEO robots, each with four wheels. This could be useful for those who want to use the robot in teaching research or workshops, as well as being ideal for budding evil overlords.

Their Kickstarter page says the product will transform the way people play, learn and experiment with mobile machines.

“As well as operating as a standalone robot you can also use LEO as a base for a more sophisticated controller like the Raspberry Pi or you can fit a WiFi, bluetooth or Zigbee module for control via WiFi or Smartphone,” the page reads.

“LEO is designed to be hacked, customised and generally messed around with. The flexible yet simple design combined with our HUB-ee™ wheels opens up a new world of creative possibilities for experimental robot builders and tinkerers.”


Images courtesy of Creative Robotics Ltd.


Rise of Robocop: the autonomous robot that predicts and prevents crime

Autonomous crime fighting robots could soon be roaming the streets, with the launch of the Knightscope K5 autonomous data machine.

Resembling a mix of WALL-E’s EVE and R2-D2, Knightscope can “see, feel, hear and smell” to collect data and indentify security threats.

In a move that is decidedly reminiscent of Minority Report, the data collected is analysed to predict potential crimes and an alert is pushed to notify the authorities.

The security system also makes use of crowdsourcing to fight crime. In the event of an alert, the local community is involved to contribute real-time information through social media, which will not only assist with crime prevention but the company hopes will also alleviate security concerns.

Knightscope K5 Autonomous Robot

The robot has an impressive range of data acquisition techniques to identify potential security risks. Both daytime and nightime video can be recorded in full 360°, and Knightscope is equipped with gesture recognition and optical character recognition.

It also has infrared capabilities and real-time 3D mapping, all of which combine to produce a mammoth amount of raw data – 90TB, equivalent to 5,000 Blu-Ray movies – each day.

This information is used to plot a real-time ‘heat map’ of crime hotspots in the area, and provide a direct and targeted response to crime.

Knightscope K5 Autonomous Robot predicts and prevents crime

Although the robot is still in development, the company has already attracted interest from several organisations, and has acquired at least one Silicon Valley-based customer to beta test the machine with over the next few months.

It also won’t be long before the robot starts to appear elsewhere. Knightscope vice president of marketing and sales Stacy Dean Stephens confirmed that the company already has “nearly 30 large enterprise customers on a growing wait list and anticipate[s] large-scale deployments in 2015”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, investors have been falling over themselves to grab a slice of Knightscope pie.

“Knightscope is also oversubscribed for its $1m seed round and will be pursuing a Series A financing later in the year,” explained Stephens.

The company is targeting $1bn+ eventual value, which may seem like a staggering figure but is almost modest when you realise that many security companies are worth tens of billions.

Weighing in at 136kg (300 pounds) and rising to 1.5m (60 inches) in height, Knightscope will be a very visible presence in communities. The company hopes it will be a friendly sight in neighbourhoods, and is describing the robot as a “new hometown hero”.

How many people will see the robot in a positive light remains to be seen, but it could have a similar impact on crime to a police presence, acting as a deterrent for criminals.

However, its recording capabilities could have the opposite effect. In many parts of the world there is a growing anti-surveillance mentality, which is playing out in resistance to new technologies that involve video recording. Most prominent of these is Google Glass, with at least one reported attack on a wearer occurring in the last month.


Images courtesy Knightscope.