This week the computer world was abuzz with the Android I/O conference. Google’s net is now cast a little wider into your home, car, and pocket. While everyone waits Apple or Google’s next move at bated breath, the bigger story could be the adoption of 3D printing combined with high processors. In this new brave world, producing hardware could be as ubiquitous as taking photos on your smartphone.
At the Intel Future Showcase 2014 in New York City this past Tuesday, Intel introduced ‘Jimmy,’ to the world the first 3D-printed robot kit. At a price of $1,500 this 3D printing platform aims to democratize the robotic world this September. The 45-centimeter-tall “social robot” was developed in conjunction with Trossen Robotics, and is a smaller version of a $16,000 robot shown by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich during a keynote at the Re/code conference last May (see video above).
The walking two-legged Jimmy will be one in a line of robots that Intel hopes do-it-yourself enthusiasts will embrace, developing more functionality for the robots, which will be able to handle tasks such as turning on lights, picking up newspapers and even having conversations. Intel and its robotics partners will sell kits with servo motors, batteries, boards, a frame and other internal parts. Using 3D printers, users can create robot designs and place them on the exoskeleton. Jimmy uses two cameras to capture and analyze pictures, which can help identify objects. But it doesn’t have a functional hand, so it can’t pick up items or hand them to a human, which remains the biggest robotics challenge to resolve in developing Jimmy further, researchers said.
The chip maker is equipping robots with its SD card-sized Edison board, which has a low-power Quark chip. The inexpensive Edison board is why Jimmy can be sold at $1,500, said Joe Zawadsky, program manager for the 21st Century Robot initiative at Intel. Jimmy is a lot less expensive than its $16,000 cousin, which has an Intel Core i5 processor based on the Haswell micro architecture. Intel’s Jimmy robot will be further developed to include 3D depth-sensing cameras, allowing the robot to map out and analyze the distance between multiple objects. The technology is being derived from Intel’s RealSense 3D camera technology, which can identify facial features and analyze the mood of a person. The first RealSense 3D cameras will be in laptops by the end of this year.
The chip maker is also developing “hexapod” robots with multiple legs and mobile robots with roller balls, researchers said. The robots will have sensors and cameras to analyze distance and movement, and wireless connectivity for communication.Intel is also providing programming tools for mobile devices to control the movement and actions of robots. The Intel XDK software development kit will allow programs to be written in HTML5, so phones, tablets and PCs can control robots. Giving hands, legs and communication abilities to robots will change the way humans interact with them, said Brian David Johnson, who is a “futurist” at Intel. For Intel, the first challenge in building a functional robot was adding a bipedal leg and adding more hardware components for multifaceted robots, Johnson said. But as prices come down, more people will be able to afford task-oriented robots for their homes, said Johnson, who has penned multiple books on robotics.“Robots will be as common as the Internet,” Johnson said.
We have all grown up with the catchphrase, “Intel Inside” embedded on the outside of most computers. Now when Jimmy says Intel inside it has a whole different meaning, sort of bringing us back to the Tin Man’s Yellow Brick Road…