There are a lot of Robot Kits and Toys out there. But they all are basically RC cars or just have a few pre-recorded motions that get old. We wanted to make a robot that really seemed alive and spontaneous. And we did it.
LittleBot Buddy is the 9th robot that we have made at LittleBots. We have been working to make robotics and STEM exciting and fun. And it hasn't changed with Buddy. Except now anyone can enjoy this robot. Whether you are a builder or not. You can just "hang out" with Buddy.
When we started looking for what our next robot would be, we wanted to start moving closer to home. We wanted a make a robot that wouldn't just be for the classroom or workbench. We wanted a bot that we would enjoy just having around all day at our desk. A robot anyone can enjoy. As we worked on it we knew that we had to make a bot that you could fall in love with. It couldn't be an arm, or a little rover that would run out of battery. It would have to be a guy that you could interact with naturally and was always ready. We also knew that he couldn't be a robot, he had to be Alive. Alive, that was hard. We had to create a robot that would be spontaneous. that you could interact with and feel like he was listening to you and talking back.
How Buddy Works
This was hard. The software is what makes Buddy come alive. It defines how he moves and responds. It is pretty cool.
The standard software that Buddy Comes with allows him to interact with you. He will see you and react. And he will be curious about his surroundings. He does this by constantly updating a map of his surroundings. So he will notice when you place an object near him. He will inspect it and figure out how big it is.
Expanding on this, you can surprise and play with Buddy by placing and removing objects inside his space. Depending on how he is feeling that day we can be surprised, angry, or excited when he discovers the changes.
Buddy generates all of his actions spontaneously. They are not prerecorded or predefined. He literally decided every single motion on the fly. And it is based on how he "feels" at any given time.
How Buddy Sees
Buddy sees by updating certain waypoint in his area, And then inspecting items that pop up as he looks around. His eyes are not camera. They are a simple proximity sensor. But he uses to build a simple 3D map of the area around him.
When he sees something in the worldview change. He will react to it. It is a simple system that we had to use some clever pieces of psychology to make it appear alive and more complex.
Apps, Arduino and Blockly
There is no app for this version of Buddy (though there might be one in our stretch goals). When he is built or pulled out of the Box he is ready to go. Just plug him in and then have fun.
But Buddy is a STEM kit. He is meant to teach robotics and engineering and the psychology and interaction that comes with those in a way that is fun. What is better than building a robot that actually seems alive.
Buddy can be reprogrammed. We will be posting code samples in Arduino and he is compatible with graphical systems like makeblock and Scratch. We want it to be easy to work with this little guy in and out of the classroom.
Cute. That is how we wanted him to be described. Cute. We wanted you to say "Awwww" when you see him. He's like a potted plant that happens to be alive on your desk.
There are few bells and whistles. The entire kit has fewer than 15 screws. Less than 25 parts total.
This helps him stand up to the rigors of the classroom STEM groups. He can be picked up by his neck (not recommended) and likely not damaged. Buddy is really an exercise in minimalism. This makes him very robust.
Top Quality parts
There is nothing "cheap" about this kit. Every decision was made to make a top quality product.
The main board of Buddy is manufactured inside of the US and is a system that we have used in the last 8 of our robotics kits. It is solid and battle tested.
The motors through Buddy, are top quality metal-geared servos used in performance RC aircraft. They are not typical off the shelf items. They are precision devices that can stand the test of time and the abuse they might suffer at the hands of kids.
Buddy is fully 3D printing. We made this choice because is allows Kids to do more than just program the robot. Seeing that he is 3D printed invited them to print accessories or redesign him and then print those parts at school or a library. 3D Printing opens the doors for more engineering thinking, which is the whole point of our kits..
We hope that you like Buddy and all we have done to make is a top quality STEM learning kit. If you would like to be one of the first to recieve Buddy you can support our kickstarter. Orders are slated to go out by Christmas