Meet Rapiro, the kit robot with a space inside its kawaii head to accomodate the Raspberry Pi microcomputer. The gizmo is the creation of Shota Ishiwatari, the Japanese gadgeteer who came up with a brain-wave controlled cat-ear headband and a heart-rate controlled wearable wagging tail, among other ‘only in Japan‘ creations. Rapiro is just as cute as these prior creations but may well have wider appeal — not least because it allows Raspberry Pi owners to make their Pi mobile.
Indeed, it’s just two days since Rapiro went live on Kickstarter and it’s already exceeded its original funding goal of £20,000, with close to 140 backers making pledges — and still 57 days to run on the campaign. Clearly Pi owners have a big appetite for cute home-assembly robotics.
The bot brings to mind the (now defunct) Nabaztag Wi-Fi rabbit. Except, instead of trying to be a plug-and-play consumer-friendly gizmo, Rapiro is a self-assembly, hackable, programmable, mobile variant of that sort of connected companion device. Its creators say the aim is to be a “catalyst between robotics and Raspberry Pi”, noting that its price will be at around a quarter of “current aesthetic robot kits” and a tenth the price of the price of “current linux-powered humanoid robot kits”.
“We want to start a revolution in cute, cool, affordable, customizable, and programmable robots,” they say on the campaign page, adding that they plan to publish Rapiro’s 3D data (.stl) on their website so owners will be able to further customise the design using a 3D printer.
Rapiro’s kit includes 12 servo motors, allowing for a range of movements such as walking and gripping objects when the bot is assembled. It also has a pair of full-colour LED eyes. As well as a space (in its head) for the Pi to be installed (Pi is obviously not included in the kit), Rapiro can also incorporate the Raspberry Pi camera module to add computer vision capabilities — so it could, for instance, be used as a in-home security robot that can wander from room to room.
Other Pi-powered ideas Rapiro’s creators suggest the gizmo is good for include:
- If you connect a wifi dongle or a bluetooth dongle to RAPIRO, you could control it with a smartphone or a game controller.
- A wifi-enabled RAPIRO could give you notifications of Facebook and Twitter messages, manage your schedules with google calendar, or tell you today’s weather and fortune as your secretary robot.
- If it heard your voice with USB microphone adapter, it could respond to your voice.
- If you embed an IR LED in RAPIRO, it could control a TV or a air conditioner.
Rapiro can also be used without any Pi inside too, being as it incorporates a programmable servo control board that’s compatible with Arduino. “Using the documentation on website you can program its range of motion by yourself,” the creators note. Power for Rapiro comes via four AA batteries inserted into its back-mounted battery box.
The basic cost for the full Rapiro kit is £199, although all 50 pledges at that price-point have been bagged. Estimated delivery for the device is this December.
As well as appealing to Pi owners who want to hack around with robotics, Rapiro could also clearly be put to use in educational settings, helping to get kids excited about technology (the Raspberry Pi Foundation plans to use one for schools and teaching workshops, for instance).