High school students Ryan Gross and Thomas Anderson are the creators of an open source humanoid robot that is simple to assemble and cost appropriate for general hobbyists while maintaining dextrous human-like movement. “Other major humanoid robots have a lot of pieces,” Thomas explains, “but ours is simpler, with fewer pieces, almost like Legos.” The current cost of the torso-and-arm robot is $350.
The robot, unofficially named PROTO1, mimics human functionality and is designed to perform tasks humans would find unappealing or dangerous.
Now high school seniors, these child prodigies have never taken a robotics class but instead found their inspiration from a “boring history class” they shared during their sophomore year. “We would always blow off our work, so we were looking for a way to spend our time, and that’s when we started teaching ourselves to build our robot,” Ryan says.
At 15 years old, Ryan had designed a prosthetic hand. “The project didn’t get very far,” Ryan said, “but it provided insight into product design and 3D printing.” Now, Ryan is running the CAD design and hardware aspects of the robot, while his classmate and business partner Thomas focuses on control, motion, and programming.
The pair is determined to develop as many iterations of the project as necessary to perfect the robot. They say, “we don’t stop or settle for less. Once we saw it moving, even though it was rudimentary, to see it move was enough inspiration and statement of what we could do that we wanted to keep going and see it pay off.”
The pair published the designs only a few weeks ago, but the product has already been downloaded hundreds of times, enabling them to receive ample feedback for product improvement.
“It’s amazing to see that other people are as interested in it as we are. I didn’t think this would be as big of a deal. We were happy to see such a positive response.” – Ryan Gross
Future Designs for the PROTO1
Having developed a prototype that is close to the final design, Thomas and Ryan’s main focus moving forward is to find unique, user-friendly ways to control the robot. “We’d like to be the first to use the Kinect to control it and add a virtual reality headset to see what the robot sees,” they say.
With future funding, they hope to develop legs for the robot. Their biggest challenge is the quality of 3D printers available to them as high school students, which slows down their iteration. Watch the evolution of their product here.