Technology conventions are usually the best places to learn about exciting new 3D printing innovations, and the 4 Years From Now (4YFN) convention in Barcelona was no exception. Featuring a three day line up with entrepreneurs, inventors, corporations and more than 5,000 visitors, 4YFN was a big success last week. But perhaps one of the biggest hits was the 3D printed Humanoid Robot developed by Robosavvy. Not only can this cool robot drive a Segway, it can even be operated through Oculus Rift to make it a perfect telepresence robot.
To explain, Robosavvy is a British distributor and reseller of robotics and 3D printing technology. Specializing in producing custom robots for research, engineering, brand promotion, live events, TV and advertisement, they have a lot of experience with unusual robotics. But this wheeled robot greeting visitors in Barcelona was something entirely different. As the Robosavvy team explained to 3ders.org, they have been working on human-robot interaction as part of a university project for a while now, which had was already previously used in a very original advertising campaign.
Following that, they were invited to show off their innovations in Barcelona. "We were invited to 4yfn event and wanted to show our capabilities in custom robotics development. It features a modified Segway-like platform. Its head is remote controlled by oculus rift. The humanoid moves its body to control the Segway or also via remote controlling the platform. It was an exercise idea by Robosavvy lab," they explain.
The robot itself is an impressive build already, featuring 30 motors and an i7 computer, as well as a lot of 3D printed components. Not just the exterior components such as the head, arms, and hands have been made with a 3D printer (using a Makerbot Replicator 2X and a custom-made 3D printer), but the internal electronic trays as well. "The embedded computing inside the robot relies on ROS and is powered by batteries. The batteries are managed by a custom electronic board made for this application allowing hot-swap of battery source," Samantha of Robosavvy explains to us.
But of course most impressive is the robot's performance. "It is remotely operated and includes an oculus rift virtual reality headset which allows you to see wherever it goes. Its' hand gestures and head can be remotely activated allowing human robot interaction," they explain. The Segway base its standing on is actually a highly modified self-balancing platform that is essentially a Segway for robots. The self-balance platform is remote controlled via RC by the user, and features a custom electronic board for self-balancing and also a separated pack of batteries.
Theoretically, its wonderful movement options and virtual reality presence means that these robots are perfect for options for telepresence communication. "In the future such a robot could allow for people to have a virtual presence with an ability to interact with their hands and that can further express the operator," the Robosavvy team explains. It could, for instance, be used by sick children to continue to attend schools while hospitalized, communicate with friends and teachers, or even accompany them on field trips. Think of teleconferencing, but then include movement and interaction.
While a wonderful concept, this 3D printed robot will only be used as a showcase piece for now, to enableRobosavvy to show off the potential of robotic construction. "We are however, renting it for events, advertising campaigns and to other companies/brands. We can customize its appearance in different ways, using a 3D printed shell that is post processed or a fiberglass shell," they explain. We will therefore have to wait a few years before this becomes a practical application for consumers.