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Hackable, educational walking bot can add a Raspberry Pi

Aug 2, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 959 views

Robotical’s hackable, Cortex-M4 based “Marty” educational robot has flexible legs, and can be upgraded with an onboard Raspberry Pi.

A startup called Robotical is seeking funds on Indiegogo for a 3D printable, mostly open source, walking robot called Marty. The WiFi-controlled bipedal bot has a 180MHz Cortex-M4 MCU, and is primarily designed to teach kids about programming using Scratch. It can also be programmed with Python or C++, and you can upgrade it with a Linux-driven Raspberry Pi or other small SBC.

Marty playing soccer
(click image to enlarge)

There are 12 days left to get the “very special” Indiegogo price of 95 Pounds (currently $125), or 85 Pounds ($112) with no arms. Whereas most robots at that price are limited to wheel-based locomotion, Marty can not only walk, but has a “unique” leg design that lets it walk, turn, dance, or kick a ball, all without taxing the battery, says Robotical.

Marty playing soccer
(click image to enlarge)

Robotical extended the first round of its flexible funded Indiegogo campaign, but has still only achieved 60 percent of its ambitious 50,000-Pound goal. Robotical says it plans to push ahead with Marty no matter what the final funding total. In addition to the above packages, there are volume discounts, such as 400 Pounds for five robots. Shipments are due in Jan. 2017.

Marty and his maker

Marty is built with injection-molded parts, but CAD files and no-solder build instructions are available for 3D printable replacement parts or for building another Marty. One Indiegogo package with just the circuit board goes for 30 Pounds, and you can get the board with servos for 55 Pounds. The device is open source for educational or personal use, although the company is attempting to protect Marty’s leg design with a patent.

Each leg has three carbon-fiber geared motors for controlling movements including forwards and backwards, side to side, and turning. There are also four metal geared motors for the main drive. Most walking robots — the specialty of designer and robotics engineer Alexander Enoch — need more motors, and have less flexibility, says Robotical. Springs assist the motors, thereby extending battery life, says the company.

Marty motion demos: click each image to view an animated GIF

You can directly control Marty via WiFi and a mobile app. Alternatively, you can program the robot to follow certain paths, use different leg and arm motions, and raise or lower its eyebrows to show emotion. ROS support is also available.

In addition to the Cortex-M4 chip and WiFi radio, the robot is equipped with an accelerometer, a beeper, and a set of AA batteries, which can be swapped out for longer lasting LiPo or Li-Ion batteries. There are also ports for connecting other sensors, motors, and circuit boards.

Marty features and options
(click image to enlarge)

The robot has enough room and power for a Raspberry Pi. This would let you add a camera, supporting the vision processing functionality needed to track a ball or detect faces. The design is also said to support integration of other small boards like an Arduino, or other Linux-driven SBCs like the Raspberry Pi Zero or BeagleBone.

Marty dances to “Hip To Be Square”

Further information

Marty the robot is available in kit form on Indiegogo through Aug. 12 at 95 Pounds (currently $125), with shipments in January. More information may be found at the Marty Indiegogo page and Robotical’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

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