Menacing walker teaches kids to build robots

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The ZeGoBeast Electric comes as a daunting-looking flat-pack bundle of wood and electronics that you have to put together yourself

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The ZeGoBeast Electric is a large, mean-looking built-it-yourself walking robot that's designed to be as simple to build as possible, with step-by-step guides available both digitally and in paper form. The team hopes that the new DIY walker will become a tool for learning about programming and electronics.

The new project is actually second effort from the team, which delivered on a successfully funded campaign last year. That first Kickstarter effort was for the ZeGoBeast Classic, a similar looking mechanical walking robot that you could wind up to propel it forward. That bot, which was delivered to backers ahead of schedule, helped the team to confirm that the kinematic legs – which are used in the new robot as well – worked as intended, and helped to work out the kinks in the laser cutting manufacturing process.

The ZeGoBeast Electric comes as a daunting-looking flat-pack bundle of wood and electronics that you have to put together yourself, but the process is handled via lesson plans and videos, and you can even get physical copies of the instructions, making it easier to teach someone else, such as your kid, how to build the robot.

"We'll be providing lots of documentation, " the project's creators told Gizmag. "Our goal is to make it similar in difficulty to Lego, but much more easily modifiable/hackable and not limit the potential of what people want to do with it."

Putting aside its slightly nightmarish looks, the robot is designed to be pretty functional. It comes with an Arduino core, line-following sensors, photosensors, motion detectors, an ultrasonic range finder and an accelerometer and gyroscope.

What you can actually make the robot do is largely down to the imagination of the user (as well as which version of the product they pick up), with the creators suggesting everything from fetching your slippers in the morning, scurrying away from bright lights, or using two or more of the robots to play games.

There are numerous versions of the ZeGoBeast up for grabs on the Kickstarter page, starting with the 'Hatchling' variation with a central, box-like, sensor-filled body and a set of legs. As the pledge levels rise, that basic core kit comes with extras such as a tail and grippers for the front of the robot.

There's even an option that includes a small Android tablet for the front of the robot. The tablet screen displays a set of eyes, enhancing the sense that the robot is a living thing, and opens up interesting possibilities for the kit, such as a first-person view point and voice commands.

The Kickstarter crowdfunding project is looking to raise US$50,000 to bring the ZeGoBeast Electric to life. Pledges start at $199 for the Hatchling versions, complete with sensors and legs, and go all the way up to $499, which comes with grippers, a tail, a silly string shooter, a radio remote control and the aforementioned Android tablet.

If all goes to plan, kits will start shipping to backers in August. After the campaign has concluded, the creators plan to sell modules through a product store, which will also provide access to the digital files for the different attachments, giving handy users a chance to build their own versions at home.

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