A new kit that makes customized robotics affordable

Robotics is awesome — but incredibly expensive. Building a humanoid robot to look cute and cater to your whims with nifty batches of code will cost you multiple hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars.

Rapiro, a cute humanoid robot, could break that mold. At £249 ($386), it takes advantage of Raspberry Pi, a $25 microcomputer, to carry out complex programming. Japanese robotics company Kiluck is behind the development of the pint-sized buddy, and its $20,000 Kickstarter fundraiser has reached nearly all of its funding in just one day.

Only a screwdriver is needed to assemble Rapiro, which runs on a total of 12 servo motors — one for its head, one to move its neck, four on the feet and six for the arms. That kind of articulation means that Rapiro can walk by itself on a flat surface, turn its head and body, and even grip small items. It even has LCD eyes that can be altered based on the RGB scale.

The little robot runs on programming via a Raspberry Pi, has extra places for the computer’s add-on camera sensor and speakers, and can even be modified to produce infrared light or be controlled via Bluetooth. Makers have the opportunity to change Rapiro’s programming from the ground up, even mapping its articulation and boosting it with extra sensors to operate independently. Some of these systems are already built into Rapiro’s body, so installing them is relatively simple — as seen in the video below.

The YouTube ID of V-KyBbOLMx0?feature=player_embedded is invalid.

Rapiro is another example of the ways people are taking advantage of the inexpensive and versatile Raspberry Pi. Kiluck is contributing to the community by offering the spec files of Rapiro’s shell, to be customized and then printed via a 3D printer. This kind of open source approach to robotics helps bring down the financial barriers to entry, and has the potential to spur more innovation.

But right now, the impossibly cute Rapiro is a good place to start.