Poppy is an open-source 3-ft humanoid robot and the main inspiration for my final project design-wise. It was created by Flowers Lab at Bordeaux, France for use in both the arts and sciences, and as such it uses an Arduino, Raspberry Pi and other relatively easy to use components. However, there are some distinct differences that make Poppy quite different from my design. Although Poppy is designed as a more affordable medium-size humanoid robot than its competitors, it is still quite pricey: roughly $11,000 for all the parts, not assembled. While I wish to have the same form factor in my design, I simply do not have the budget to recreate it exactly. The main difference is the servomotors – Poppy uses expensive Dynamixel servos ($200 per motor), and I use cheaper hobby servos ($11 per motor). Also, the parts for Poppy are all 3D-printed; I used laser cut acrylic as I did not have the time to 3D-print all the components as that would take well over 80 hours on a standard MakerBot. Despite this, it was very useful for me to study the all the joints and form of this robot.
RoboThespian is a large humanoid robot created by Engineered Arts Ltd. I think this project is very similar to mine for the fact that both robots are designed to emulate humans: RoboThespian an actor on a stage, and mine a student in a classroom. Another similarity is that both robots use LCD screens as a method of displaying a wide range of emotions. I cannot say whether this robot’s motions are pre-animated or whether it can generate behaviors in real-time. It interesting to ask when a robot becomes more than a mere animatronic and actually an interactive machine, which is what most people imagine when they think of robots.
Pepper is an expressive large humanoid robot created by Aldebaraan Robotics, and it begins to transcend into the realm of commercial robots. Reportedly costing around $2000 (although not for sale yet, this is very cheap for the robot’s size and functionalities), the robot is designed to act as a store guide. The robot has already taken some roles advertising Nescafe machines and selling mobile devices in a phone store in Japan. While in commercial environments, it can be quite tricky to match to practical use for the asking price when dealing with large humanoid robots such as these. Despite the fact that it may be a glimpse into a possible future where humans and humanoid robots coexist abundantly, one wouldn’t be too wrong if he or she thought Pepper was nothing more than a giant toy.