PLEN2: An Open Source, 3D Printable Robot on Kickstarter

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d8f91891c3f965907f7b8f1437d98478_originalThe PLEN2 can carry small items, dance around, or play a game of soccer on your desktop and you can make it all happen via a smartphone or PC or a whole range of inputs like motion control, facial expressions, or, for that matter, your brain waves.

Yep, the PLEN2 is a robot kit which includes all the control boards, servo motors, and accessories you need to build your own tiny, albeit slight less sophisticated, version of ASIMO, or something very like it. At just 7.87 inches tall and built with some 18 movable joints, the PLEN2 is highly maneuverable and you can — without significant technical knowledge and special tools — build the robot using just a screwdriver.

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Natsuo Akazawa, the founder and CEO of the PLEN2 Project, says he hopes a Kickstarter campaign for the project will bring robotics technology to the masses.

“Our aim is to open up the relationship between humans and technology through a printable and open-source robot kit,” the PLEN Project Committee says in describing the concept. “We do not believe that robots should replace people, but that they should complement our abilities. We strongly believe that scientific technology can enrich everyone in society, if we embrace it in a positive manner.”

A commitment to the project will get you all the necessary 3D data to create the main components for the robot with your 3D printer, and because the project features an Arduino-compatible control setup, anyone who loves robots and gadgets can handle programming and adding functions to the PLEN2.

But it all comes down to funding.p3

“We are very small team,” they say (sic). “We need your help to build PLEN2, bring it to the world, and to grow the community.”

Akazawa says he’s been working to educate people about robotics for more than 10 years, and he established the department of Robotics at a technical college in Japan four years ago. He also holds robotics workshops for students once a month, and it’s for that reason he believes a better understanding of robotics is important for the future.

The CTO of the PLEN2 Project, hardware, software, and app developer Naohiro Hayaishi, is a pioneer of robotics research and a technical executive with more than 11 years of experience in software development and electronic design. He’s developed a number of robots, home sensor systems, and “Brain Machine” systems since 2004, but his major interest is in developing a pocket-sized robot he hopes will once day make it all the way to Mars.

A Kickstarter pledge of $1,099 will net you a PLEN2 Developer Edition kit which includes all the necessary hardware and software you’ll need for your robot. Early bird backers can get an assembly kit for just $699.

Work on the project began in February of last year, and the mechanical design and control board prototyping were complete by March 2014. The team estimates that the first robots will start shipping in November 2015 if the campaign meets the goal.

What do you think of the PLEN2 Project and the sophisticated, small robot the team has created? Let us know in the PLEN2 Kickstarter forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the team’s Kickstarter video below to see the PLEN2 in action.

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