Blossom: A Soft, Social Robot for the Home

Robotics

A roboticist from Cornell University in New York created a robot platform that is simple, expressive, and impressive, and comes from a kit and can be creatively outfitted with handcrafted materials / Photo by: Kenneth C. Zirkel via Wikimedia Commons

 

A roboticist from Cornell University in New York created a robot platform that is simple, expressive, and impressive, and comes from a kit and can be creatively outfitted with handcrafted materials.

Guy Hoffman, who is also an assistant professor at Cornell, is the senior author of "Blossom: A Handcrafted Open-Source Robot" that seeks to "empower people to build their own robot, but without sacrificing how expressive it is."

"Also, it’s nice to have every robot be a little bit different," Hoffman said in a statement. "If you knit your robot, every family would have their own robot that would be unique to them."

The mechanical design of the robot—which the roboticist developed with Michael Suguitan, a doctoral student in Hoffman’s lab and first author of the paper—revolves around a floating "head" platform that uses strings and cables to move. It could then be fitted with a personalized crocheted outfit.

The robot's mechanism allows its movement to be more flexible and natural compared to their more rigid counterparts. According to the statement posted on Cornell's website, Blossom can be manipulated by moving a smartphone using an open-source puppeteering app, which resembles the robot's movements as bouncing, stretching, and dancing.

The parts needed for Blossom's assembly are currently tagged at $250, and the researchers are now developing a similar kit completely made up of cardboard—which would lower the already affordable price.

"It’s meant to be a flexible kit that is also very low cost. Especially if we can make it out of cardboard, you could make it very inexpensively," Hoffman said.

Due to the simplicity of the social robot, ease of interaction, and hands-on experience of building it, Blossom could be used to help teach children about robotics. Even researchers—particularly those looking into the human-robot interaction field—can use this robot for their studies.

Aside from the cardboard version, Hoffman and his team are also developing an algorithm that could make Blossom react to YouTube videos—a function that the lead author said could be useful in modeling behavior for children with autism.