Parents wanting to get their kids into coding from an early age are spoiled for choice, with toys like Vortex, Codeybot, Photon and Cozmo, but there aren't many gadgets for an older audience wanting to try their hand at programming. Currently on Kickstarter, Hexa is a six-legged, sensor-laden robot that's essentially a blank slate for people to program their own functionality into, and share those skills across a social network of tinkerers.
Robots are on their way to integrating into our everyday lives, but besides maybe playing with a Spiderman toy or controlling a BB-8, many people don't get a chance to really experiment with them. That's the problem that Vincross, the company behind Hexa, was aiming to address with its programmable insectoid droid.
The six-legged robot stands 4.7 in (12 cm) high and 20 in (51 cm) across, and it will navigate the world by way of an accelerometer, infrared sensor and a 720p camera, complete with night vision mode. To keep things simple, Hexa's basic functions, like movement, will be built into the robot, letting users program it with commands like "walk forward," rather than having to wade through coding specifics to get it going.
The robot gets its smarts from a Linux-based system that Vincross calls MIND, designed to be the toolbox that users fiddle with to get Hexa doing what they want it to do. Essentially, programming boils down to setting up If/Then statements, telling the robot to do certain actions in response to certain stimuli.
Input can come from things like voice commands, gestures, light, temperature, or signals from phones and computers, and Hexa can react by walking, waving, grabbing, sending data or controlling connected Internet of Things devices.
Those behaviors can be coded in through either a developer kit based on the Go programming language, or through a more visual, user-friendly simulator. Once a user has created something they're particularly proud of (like, say, a light-activated dance routine) they can share it with the rest of the Hexa hivemind by uploading it to the Skill store.
From the companion app, users can download, try out and build on sections of code made by the community. An Explore mode in the app also lets users drive Hexa directly, with a live robot's-eye view video feed.
Hexa is a toy for tinkerers, aimed squarely at the kind of people who'd drool at the thought of a Raspberry Pi with legs and eyes. If that's you, the robot is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, where it's already raised over half of its US$100,000 goal, with 29 days still to go.
Pledges for the robot itself start at US$499, with higher rewards adding wireless charging and other goodies. If all goes to plan, the Hexa should be scuttling into backers' homes in February 2018.
Check out Hexa in action in the campaign video below.