Dasarobot, the South Korean company that sells the robot pet Genibo, is in the process of changing its name to Dongbu Robot. The company is launching a number of new products for the hobby robot market, which include the Herculex line of servo motors and HOVIS humanoid robot kits.
HOVIS’s biggest selling point is its compatibility with Android-based smartphones, allowing users to download new features via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth thanks to a deal with SK Telecom (the largest telecommunications company in South Korea). Any 3.5-inch Android phone can serve as the robot’s brain, allowing for more sophisticated functions – such as speech recognition, which will be among the first apps available. The company says apps for education, entertainment, and home security are planned. Kids will be able to interact with educational software through the phone’s touch screen, just as they do with more conventional edutainment robots like the iRobiQ.
Smartphone-robot hybrids will blur the line between inexpensive hobby robots and expensive academic humanoids like the NAO by adding a camera (computer vision), microphone and speaker (speech recognition, speech synthesis), and the processing power of an embedded PC. The ramifications this will have for the robotics scene can’t be overstated. Hobby robots have been combined with smartphones before, but only by determined individuals tinkering with the possibilities. This is the first time a robot kit will have that functionality out of the box. You want your robot to play soccer? There’s an app for that. At least, there might be once users get their hands on it.
The HOVIS brand also comes in a variety of styles, from complete-with-exoskeleton to DIY kits and four levels of software for novice to experienced programmers. Prices start at 700,000 KRW ($620 USD) for the wheeled version, which doesn’t have that many degrees of freedom. The parts are interchangeable, so you can upgrade to legs later (those will cost more). The Herkulex servos (which were announced earlier this year) come in two models with the same size but different torque and speed. One has 12kg/cm torque while the other has double that (download the English manual here) and are priced at $60 & $150 USD (available from Tribotix).
It’s unclear exactly when the HOVIS robots will be available outside of Korea, but probably sometime next year. As is usually the case with technology, timing is a huge factor. But the idea is a powerful one, and I imagine other manufacturers, especially Robotis, are scrambling to get something similar to market. If they aren’t, they certainly should be.
Leiablog | Innorobo