The 21st Century Robot project aims to finally make the robot companion a reality. Led by Intel futurist Brian David Johnson, the project aims to put robot-building tools into the hands of everyone, and Johnson has found the key tool to help him to do that: 3D printing.
Over a decade ago, Johnson conceived a robot design that was friendly and practical to build, with small and childlike features. Although it resembled a person, it had simple hands and legs, so construction wouldn't be too complicated. He even gave his robot a name: Jimmy.
With a little help, Johnson turned his design into pages of blueprints that anyone can now download and use to print big chunks of robot on a 3D printer. The plans even show how someone can build some off-the-shelf robotic parts into the printed components to create their own Jimmy. The AI platform is open-source and app-based, so robot builders can easily develop their own software for Jimmy.
Johnson calls the project "open source," since it encourages people to customize and refine their robots if they wish. In the end, it takes the cost of owning your own humanoid robot down from thousands of dollars to hundreds.
But what are you supposed to do with your robot after it's printed? Johnson has plenty of ideas, ranging from basic companionship to an personal reminder bot. Due to their in-person nature, robots have a social aspect that other technology lacks, and Johnson says Jimmy has the tools (like Wi-Fi connectivity) to make real use of it.