Crowdfunding projects to get interesting games and tech has become a bit of a hobby. I have previously explained some of the many, usually electronic, devices that I back (i.e. pre-order) and then, at some indeterminate time in the future, they arrive. Usually they are a bit of a surprise due to not keeping track of emails or website notifications. The batch this year have been ideal distractions from the lockdown and I have definitely been in to receive the parcel. This month a new robot arrived and I think this little chap is something quite different.
The robot set in question is called Clicbot. This is a build your own tool/toy depending on yout point of view. It consists of golfball size spheres that have a servo splitting the two halves and on each half an electrical connector and a lego like plastic clicking system. Sticking two of these spheres together, depending on the orientation of the sphere halves give two mobile joints. Additional pieces with similar connectors include wheels, long arms and even powered suction cups. These are finally topped with the brain, a slightly larger piece with a touchscreen and numerous sensors and a camera on it.
The flexibility of what can be made depends on how many parts you have in the kit but it can range from a walker to a driver to a stand alone flexible “stick”. The clever part about these elements is that they, or the brain, are aware of which part is attached where and what its orientation is. On powering up the partner app and turning on the brain the app shows the configuration or whatever robot has been built. This configuration can be saved too. Then it will guide (with flashing lights on the physical components) the connections, taking care to warn you if the orientation is correct. The brain exhibits some character with a little blinking digital eye.
Now a robot is built it can be programmed in a range of ways that can combine and have varying levels of complexity, which makes for a great teaching aid. The first is to manually turn the joints and components into a new position, then record that in the app as a key frame, then move it again, save again and so on. That string of positions can be played through physically. It’s a 21st century stop motion animation of a bot. The other way to program it is via a scratch like block programming interface that surfaces all the function. The device can detect a degree of force, the suction cups can such air out and know if they are attached. It can detect gestures, faces, obstacles as well as direct join and part rotation. That is generating python, which you can easily switch to on the app to help debug or to learn code. The components are very robust, though you can over code its actions so it rips its own limbs off, but that can be quite amusing too. Individual collections of functions can then be added to a control panel enabling the triggering or driving of the bot. The slightly non-linear nation of the ball joints give the bot creations as serpent like feel to it which is very different to normal angular bots.
One final part of the bot is that it has some built in personalities, or at least one, with more to come. The main one is a tall bot design that is supposed to use the sticky base (glue rather than the suction cup). Once stuck to the desk and built in the correct orientation this tall snake like bot dances, follows your gaze and on its screen presents you with a general knowledge quiz, indicating there is much more that can be done with the screen. One of the amusing pieces of programming is to scrawl a message on your phone on the app and have that writing appear on hit face.
What else does it do?
Aside from the basic components to help it walk, drive or climb different sets have things such as grippers or as in my kit I picked the iphone holder. I may have picked the wrong component as the relative power of the servos, and potential errors building movements might wreck the phone. That’s just a minor issue though. Obviously with lockdown not many people have seen this bot in our house but the family thinks it’s pretty clever. My son had some fun programming a real bot and driving it around all own his own design. That is of course one of the reasons for it to exist. These kind of friendly and collaborative robots are very much on the rise, so awareness of the concepts would seem to be essential, even if the bot doesn’t really do anything as such.
I bought/invested in this a while back, not sure how good it would be, but I am impressed. All my own money no favouritism or influence just so you know. It definitely suits video and I think their own video does it justice.