KEYi Tech has turned to crowdfunding to launch a modular, personality-rich educational robot dubbed the Clicbot — featuring a character brought to life by animator Carlos Baena, known for his work on Pixar films including WALL-E.
"Clicbot is your family’s newest friend," claims KEYi's Zekun Peng. "He listens, he thinks, and he even reacts. His personality is contagious, and his playful design makes him even more lovable. More than that, he’s an engaging teacher that knows how to make learning fun."
Clicbot is also modular: The design unveiled by the company is based around a "brain" with a camera, gesture sensor, touch sensors, microphone, and a screen through which Baena's animations play, plus a built-in battery. The brain module is then connected through a series of add-ons to build a skeleton which can take the form of a desk-mounted arm with or without grasper or a wheeled robot — complete with extra sensor modules including a pressure-sensitive 'foot' and a distance sensor.
"Clicbot starts super basic. Build your new robot and get a grasp on robotics by clicking pieces together," Peng explains. "You can then assign movement directions by moving your Clicbot and selecting the direction in which its moving. Or you can record a sequence by simply hitting record and moving the bot. It’s that easy. Now you can play that sequence over and over- no code required."
Once the children at whom Clicbot is aimed want to progress to code, Clicbot includes a tablet-friendly drag-and-drop blocks-based programming environment based on Google's Blockly — though for the more advanced user the robot can also be programmed in Python.
Promotional shots from KEYi showcase Clicbot as a remarkably flexible design: The brain is shown driving bodies as diverse as a traditional robot arm, hexapod, quadrapod, and bipedal walking robots, a moon-buggy-like six-wheeled rover, and a remote-controlled trike — as well as showing off two distinct predefined personalities in which the robot plays high-five with a user and dodges another who tries to cover its camera.
Clicbot is now in active production and is offering the kits — which include the brain, four joints, a single skeleton, two wheels, mount, smartphone holder, and access to the Clicbot Academy app platform — for $299 at early bird pricing, rising to $399 for a larger kit with six joints, three skeleton pieces, four foot pressure sensors, and two suction cups. Higher tiers are also available with correspondingly more modules.
More information is available on the Clicbot Kickstarter campaign page; the rewards are expected to ship this June.