As FutureBots Labs' solo roboticst, Dan Mathias has been toiling away for almost 10 years to develop humanoid robots (such as the ATOM-7XP humanoid) out of his lab. Today Dan has a special announcement: FutureBot Labs has developed a new humanoid robot named KATE, the "Kids Avatar Teacher and Entertainer." We're highlighting Dan's latest robot for three reasons: First, FutureBots is trying to become a legit robotics business with real products for entertainment, education, research, and healthcare. That's a tough nut to crack on a personal budget and as a solo engineer! Hopefully a little exposure will help FutureBots find some much-needed assistance on a number of fronts. Second, we are impressed with Dan's (solo!) engineering efforts over the years. He's clearly a dedicated and capable roboticist. Third, we've been unable to previously cover his robots' (seemingly-incremental) progress, so we're happy that KATE's unveiling gives us occasion to write about FutureBots Labs. Be sure to check out the photos and videos of Dan's latest KATE robot, as well as the more mature ATOM robot.
From the description of KATE on FutureBots' website, the dual-arm robot stands 45 inches tall, has 22 total degrees of freedom (22-DoF), uses a tracked (differential drive?) base for mobility, has a touch-screen tablet-computer display, plenty of computation, and a whole complement of sensors (Kinect depth camera, chemical sensors, sonar and infrared sensors, stereo vision, and GPS). Kate was constructed in (just!) 3 months, so apparently Dan is a pretty adept engineer -- he single-handedly did all the electronics, mechanics, cosmetics, embedded programming, and OS programming!
Dan says (paraphrased):
My original idea for KATE was to build a robot that remote military servicemen (and servicewomen) could use to interact with their kids: play games, work on homework, or just give 'em a big hug. I think KATE could also help Autistic children improve their social and communication skills, and perhaps one day be used in nursing homes to assist Alzheimer's patients.
Clearly, Dan is trying to turn FutureBots Labs into a proper robotics company.
KATE isn't FutureLabs' first robot. That distinction belongs to ATOM:
According to the ATOM homepage, this dual-armed humanoid has 49 total DoF and was also built exclusively by Dan Mathias over a period of 8-10 years. Dan has plenty of videos of ATOM testing out its actuators, but (to the best of my knowledge) none of ATOM walking unassisted -- though he assures me it is physically capable of doing so. Perhaps this underscores the point....
FutureBots Labs is looking for assistance. Dan is a good engineer, but building a robotics company requires more than a solo engineer -- both in time, expertise, and money. Hopefully, the added exposure from a Hizook post will help our long-time online acquaintance find some assistance.
I guess you could say that Hizook is helping out in our own ways...
(1) We're going to try to write more about young(ish) robotic startups, like FutureBots. If you're working at a robotics startup, we'd love to hear about it -- contact us! Naturally, we can't guarantee that we'll be able to cover your project, as we're very limited in our writing capacity. However, we do accept submitted contributions!
(2) Knowledge is power. You'll notice that my Hizook articles are becoming more business-centric. Hizook has published several articles, with more in the pipeline, that could be invaluable to your robotics startup. Examples include: sources of VC funding for robotics; using SBIR grants to bootstrap product development (like ModRobotics); upcoming DARPA grants and programs; and crowd-funding robotics projects (article pending, but go check out Kickstarter).