Robotics

Spherical cells free up modular CellRobot design

The CellRobot is a modular robot kit, which can be built into various vehicles, tools and toys
The CellRobot is a modular robot kit, which can be built into various vehicles, tools and toys
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Why not build your own robo-bartender?
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Why not build your own robo-bartender?
The Vision cell is a camera that shoots 640 x 480 photos and video 
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The Vision cell is a camera that shoots 640 x 480 photos and video 
Each individual Cell has eight articulate joints, where they connect to each other, and the two hemispheres allow for 360 degree rotation
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Each individual Cell has eight articulate joints, where they connect to each other, and the two hemispheres allow for 360 degree rotation
The CellRobot can be put together in a wide variety of shapes, for different functions
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The CellRobot can be put together in a wide variety of shapes, for different functions
The Heart is the center of the robot, supplying power to the whole device and connecting to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth
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The Heart is the center of the robot, supplying power to the whole device and connecting to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth
The app includes a shape library for ideas, and tutorials to help users put them together
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The app includes a shape library for ideas, and tutorials to help users put them together
The Mount clamps onto a desk or object, allowing the robot to hold itself up or grasp items
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The Mount clamps onto a desk or object, allowing the robot to hold itself up or grasp items
The Cells are designed to easily snap together
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The Cells are designed to easily snap together
With a Mount and Vision cell, the CellRobot can act as a surveillance arm
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With a Mount and Vision cell, the CellRobot can act as a surveillance arm
The Wheels add mobility to the CellRobot, and can pivot in three degrees of freedom
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The Wheels add mobility to the CellRobot, and can pivot in three degrees of freedom
The CellRobot is a modular robot kit, which can be built into various vehicles, tools and toys
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The CellRobot is a modular robot kit, which can be built into various vehicles, tools and toys

Toy robots are pretty commonplace these days, whether they're playing games, teaching kids to code or being our best buds. Plenty of those are modular, too, like the EZ-Robot line or Wunderkind sets, but with its spherical "cells" the CellRobot from KEYi Tech looks more versatile than most, coming together as everything from an RC racer or home security guard, to a smart camera stand or mini robo-bartender.

The basic non-functional cell modules have eight joint faces with which they can connect to other cells, opening up an impressive range of possible body shapes and forms. They're also split into two hemispheres that gives them 360-degree rotation, meaning that robot constructions can be programmed to move in complex and precise ways.

No matter what you decide to build, the heart of all CellRobot designs will be, well, the Heart. Supplying power to the rest of the robot, the Heart cell connects to phones and tablets via Bluetooth, and relays the instructions input through a companion app (iOS and Android) to the rest of the robot. Around its surface lie eight joint connectors, where other cells snap on with a twisting action.

Functional cells include the Vision cell, which serves as the robot's eyes thanks to a wide-angle lens camera that shoots 640 x 480-pixel pictures or video at 30 fps, transmitting it to the connected smart device. There's also the Mount cell, which can clamp onto a desk or object, either to hold the robot in place or let it grasp and use objects. The Wheels cells, obviously, gives the CellRobot some much needed mobility at speeds of up to 5 in/s (12.7 cm/s), connecting with a hinge that grants three degrees of freedom.

There is plenty of freedom when it comes to combining all these pieces into a functioning whole. A Heart can run up to 20 modules, and a library of shapes in the app provides ideas for putting them together via detailed tutorials. For the more advanced and adventurous there's Custom mode, which lets users set parameters for each individual cell, or gently twist them into shape manually. From there, the design can be saved in the app to call back on later, or shared online.

The app includes a shape library for ideas, and tutorials to help users put them together
The app includes a shape library for ideas, and tutorials to help users put them together

The current cell options don't sound like the final lineup, either. The company plans to release its open-source hardware and software API, and judging by the promo videos and images, suction cups, more articulated claws and the like could be on the way.

Perhaps the main downside, though, is that taking full advantage of the CellRobot's seemingly endless possibilities will be a pricey investment. The lowest pledge level on the Kickstarter campaign will set you back US$155 for the Basic Package, which only includes the Heart, one cell, two wheels and the charger. Not much room to move with that. Higher tiers add more cells, more wheels and the camera and mount, but the complete package will leave a $625 hole in your wallet. If all goes to plan, the CellRobot will ship as early as December.

It is worth mentioning that this is KEYi Tech's second bite at the crowdfunding cherry with the CellRobot. The company canceled the original campaign in December, 2015 when it became obvious the $75,000 funding goal wouldn't be reached. However, the team fully refunded backers and kept them in the loop regarding their continued attempts to make the CellRobot a reality. That has now resulted in this latest campaign, which is aiming to raise $50,000 over the next 30 days.

You can check out a few of the possible CellRobot designs in the video below.

Source: KEYi Tech

CellRobot | Advanced Modular Robotics Kit

1 comment
JamesDemello
These products are certainly better than just a toy robot that you cannot modify but for the price, I would rather just buy a bunch of servos and an Arduino and create something myself. Robots should be optionally bipedal - and there is no way you can create anything that walks on two legs with this kit. Perhaps it will appeal to a certain age group but anyone seriously interested in robotics has better options.
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