The Creative Science Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of their new open-source making activity for education and research that we are calling Creative-Robotix. Making things can be useful, entertaining, and educational. In addition, the world is moving from centralized manufacture (in large factories, located in a handful of international sites) to distributed manufacture (in your own locality, potentially in your garage, shed or home). So if you want to be on the leading wave of this revolution join CSf in this crowd-sourced maker adventure, Creative-Robotix.

Creative-Robotix can be used by teachers, parents, children, adults, in groups or as individuals to address core STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Maths) learning and making activities in a fun, hands-on, social and interactive way.  Our research platform can be used by undergraduate students at university or by research students or groups to explore the future of Social Human Robot Computer Interaction.

Introducing the Creative Robotix Platform for Education and Research

Robots are forecast by many people to be the next major market for technology, following the smart phone.  For those of you that are interested learning more about this technology and acquiring practical hands-on knowledge we have created a family of versatile robot building platforms that form an educational environment which can be customised in numerous ways ranging from designing the robot’s skin (i.e. giving the robot the appearance you want) through to designing your own software or hardware (giving the robot the functionality you want).   Our educational platform CRE is a fully customizable humanoid platform, which can be 3D printed, and constructed for less than $30. For those of you that do not have access to3D printing you can either buy the entire kit from us (including the plastic body members) or wait for us to release the design instructions for versions that can be made from  more accessible materials, such as foam board, which can be crafted out of the board with knife (adult supervision required).  Our research platform, CRR, is similar to the educational platform but uses higher precision servos and motors, plus it includes options for a greater range of sensors and actuators.

For Education

The Creative-Robotix Educational (CRE) platform (This is the most basic, and cheapest, platform we offer, students build this and add their own skins)

CRE is built from cheap off the shelf and readily available parts and provides a fun way to explore the exciting possibilities of owning your own personal robotic pal.  By building a robot from basic parts you will learn about robotics, electronics, computing, 3D printing and modelling. While assembling the robot, you will be introduced to the basics in all these skills; you can chose to focus on a particular area by modifying any aspects of the design, such as giving the CRE platform a face you created, or a body, arms, or electronic/mechanical capabilities you designed. In this way you control your own learning. For those of you that prefer to do these things as part of a class, the Creative Robotix Team provides supporting training workshops and vacation camps.

So, let’s provide a little more technical detail. The CRE platform is articulated with 5 low-cost servo motors, allowing differential drive, head and arm movements. He is powered by an Arduino-Micro and has Bluetooth connectivity, which enables mobile phone control and interaction, or to give him a ‘ Brain the Size of the Planet ‘ (a quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams ), the CRE platform can incorporate a cloud computing paradigm (see the following section on ‘community‘).  Because the designs are unbounded, the options are limitless. For example the cloud provides a way of enabling robots built with CRE platform to harness the power of artificial intelligence but, as a simple (self-contained) starting exercise, you might get your CRE platform moving about your classroom or house, avoiding obstacles and voicing his experiences.

For Research

The Creative-Robotix Research (CRR) platform

CRR is built from high quality off the shelf precision digital servos and other readily available parts and creates a low cost, highly functional research platform for exploring Social Human Robot Interaction and also offers a learning pathway from our CRE platform. The platform  is similar to the educational platform but has higher precision components plus more potential for expansion.

Design & Build Your Own Robot

Both the  CRE­ and the CRR are skinnable and by way of an example, let is introduce you to TIMee. TIMee is simply our CRE­ platform with skin applied, comprising of head, hands, arms and torso.  We created this skin to illustrate a fully functional design, and to give you all a starting point to imagine, design and build your robot.  We used something called Science Fiction Prototyping  to imagine TIMee, we have documented the steps on another Instructable website entry.  You can download the TIMee design files as open source, free of charge, using them as they are, or modifying them to create your own skin designs.



TIMee (a fully functional robot built on the CRE platform)

The components you need to build your own TIMee

If we have fired your imagination and you want to start building your own robot, then the big question is HOW? Fortunately the Creative Robotix team have made this easy for you and we have deposited ‘step-by-step’ instructions (down to the last ‘nut & bolt‘) in our Instructables website entry (a website for makers) for our CRE base platform RobEE.  The design files for TimEE can also be found at our other instructable.

A Community of Developers

When you make the decision to build a Creative Robotix based robot, you are not just choosing another maker project. Rather, you are also becoming part of a community of fellow robot builders; the Creative-Robotix community. This is a community where people share an interest in building robots, and harbour dreams about what wondrous things the future may have in store.  Collaboration among developers is supported by blog entries, design files and code uploaded through the Creative-Robotix web pages.

Some of you are also part of Creative-Science activities where we use something called Science Fiction Prototyping to discuss visions that we hope might shape better futures. Others of you are more interested in the design aspects making new robot functionalities or appearances.

In all these activities something you will all share is being part of our community, one where we share ideas, designs, information and helping each other freely, since this is an open source venture.

A Community of Social Robots

Community doesn’t stop with the robot designers but extends into the robots themselves as, because your robot can be network-aware, that means that the robot you build can communicate with other Creative-Robotic robots. We do this through connections to the cloud, extending the notion of community and collaboration into the world of robots. Imagine a world where your robot was sharing, learning and collaborating with others, not just locally based robots, but ones across the globe!

A Global Family

CSf is a not-for-profit education organisation, so we are releasing the design for our Creative-Robotix platform as an open-source crowd based venture (the designs are free for you to download!). You can source your own components or, for those of you that prefer to buy things as a complete kit, we also offer that option by visiting the CSf online store (coming soon). By doing this we hope that you will enter into the spirit of free-sharing by offering your designs back to the community so CSf can fulfill its vision for creating an open source, crowd sourced approach to building and exploring the future of robots (and other cloud-of-things devices).  In keeping with the cloud-of-things principles, we would hope that your robots would not just be stand-alone creatures but will be social robots, having names and using the Internet to communicate with each other.

Thus, when joining the Creative-Robotix community, you will not just be building a single robot for yourself, but creating a growing community of human-friendly social robot’s, designed and shared by the community, evolving and improving with each contribution and iteration. Thus we encourage you to use our blog to share your questions, ideas and designs.

Competition Win $1000 and Have Some Fun!

As mentioned earlier, the TIMee skin is just one of many possible designs. While you can chose to use this, you can also design your own skin giving, for example, the robot a more colourful set of facial expressions with a voice to match.  In fact, designing your own skin for this mini-robot is a huge part of the fun. We are not skilled graphics designers nor are we very arty, so we are sure that there are many of you that will be able to design more attractive skins for your robot. More than just knowing that, CSf wants to actively encourage you to design new skins and share them with our fledgling, but growing Creative-Robotix community. By way of some encouragement we are offering a prize of $1000 for the best skin design, as voted by you.  Eventually we will create an separate competition page but until then We will use the blog at the end of this page to share information, answering any questions you may have and keeping you up to speed with our plans. In case you would like to start preparing for the competition before then, it might be helpful for us to say something about what we foresee for the rules. Our plan is to keep them simple  with the main need being to follow the instructions on our Intructables web pages to build the basic robot functionality, but adding your own skin design (which must me original and not a copy of any other robot). Once you have created a functioning robot based on the Creative-Robotix platform (with your own skin design), you then need to take some still pictures and a short movie of it, submitting the design files, photographs and video to CSf (under a creative commons license, allowing CSf and fellow robot designers to freely reuse and adapt your designs). We will be setting up a competition page to handle your competition entries and provide more details, but , in the meantime, we hope this information will help you start planning your entry.

To fire your imagination why not write a little story a Science Fiction Prototype , to capture your longer term vision for these kinds of robots (what your work might lead to in 10-20 years, say). For more information on a Science Fiction Prototyping visit the webpages of the Creative Science Foundation.

Finally, we wish you “ Happy Imagining, Happy Creating & Happy Building !”

Useful Links


Background Information

The Creative Robotix mobile robot designs were devised and designed by Dr Simon Egerton, a world renowned roboticist, whose work inspired Brian David Johnson to invent Science-Fiction Prototyping (SFP) as a way of driving product innovation forward in a more effective way. At the time Brian David Johnson was working as a futurist at the Intel Corporation driving their product innovation process. As part of his work, exploring the issues surrounding the development and deployment of future domestic robots (which Johnson believed would be one of the next big markets for high-tech companies), he wrote a Science Fiction Prototype about a post-singularity humanoid robot called Jimmy , that possessed levels of artificial general intelligence that were comparable to people. In the original story, Nebulous Mechanisms , Jimmy’s (fictional) designer was a computer scientist who went by the name of Dr Simon Egerton, a brilliant computer scientist who, as part of the story (SFP) gets involved in numerous adventures with the robots he had designed (with all the stories being written by Johnson to test some aspect of the commercial deployment of future humanoid robots).  As with all of Johnson’s fiction, the stories are engaging and thoughtful. However, one of the most extraordinary facets of this series of supposedly fictional stories is that the lead character, Dr Simon Egerton is in fact a real person, a real computer scientist and a real-life robot designer who designed the Creative Robotix platforms presented in this web page!  If you want to find out more about him, visit Simon’s web page where you will see that works in the College of Science, Health and Engineering, at the Bendigo Campus of La Trobe University near Melbourne (Australia) leading the Intelligent Systems Research group.  There is a saying that “ from little acorns mighty oaks grow ” and in a similar vein, this work started from a research paper ( Using Multiple Personas in Service Robots to Improve Exploration Strategies When Mapping New Environments ) which led to Brian Johnson writing a series of SFPs about Dr Simon Egerton and his super intelligent robot Jimmy . Also, if you want to discover more about this history, visit the history of the Creative Science Foundation website