Imagine being able to control your own wee robot with a wave of your hand. With ZeroUI’s new robotics kit, Ziro, launching on Indiegogo today, you don’t have to imagine.
The Ziro smart glove comes in a kit that includes an array of modules and other bits and pieces. The kit allows you to build your own robotic creations, from a simple trike to a robot dragon. Your imagination, the parts, and your own ingenuity are the only barriers. The smart glove supports seven different actions for the hand and your robots can be configured using a simple Android or iOS app. You just map the gesture controls to different functions on your robot, and then you can dispense with the smartphone or tablet and control the robot directly with the glove on your hand.
ZeroUI is all about creating natural user interfaces and breaking down the barriers to learning about robotics by making things as simple and intuitive as possible.
“The hand becomes the controller,” ZeroUI’s CEO, Raja Jasti, explained to Digital Trends. “We don’t think about using our hands. It’s natural. What we noticed is that when people are driving a rover, they’re directly controlling these things, whereas a touchscreen gives you the feeling there’s something between you and the thing you’re controlling.”
This is the first application of the company’s gesture-based Natural User Interface (NUI), which it hopes will become a popular platform. It was initially envisioned as a good way to get kids learning about engineering, product design, and physics, and also to tear them away from touchscreens. But ZeroUI is hoping the hobbyist maker movement will also see the appeal.
The modular design is very flexible, so you can use any boxes or materials you have lying around at home to augment your designs. ZeroUI includes some design suggestions in the kits, but hopes to stir up a community that will share projects and progress. You can also design and 3D print your own components and parts and hook them up to the Ziro modules. The possibilities are endless.
Based in San Jose, California, ZeroUI was founded in 2012 when Jasti partnered with Dr. Karthik Ramani, an 18-year veteran of toy engineering. They took their time to test and develop a control system that’s easy to use, but deceptively versatile.
“Through user studies, we distilled what people need to seven different actions on the hand,” explained Jasti. “And this covers most of the stuff people want to do.”
The starter kit includes the smart glove, two modules, the smartphone app, and a phone mount for $149. The pro kit adds another two modules, assembly parts for the Rover and Trike designs, and a 360-degree rotating phone mount for a special early-bird Indiegogo price of $199. That price will rise to $249 once the campaign ends.
You get around seven hours of battery life from the modules and about four hours from the sensor-packed glove. The box your kit comes in also doubles as a charging station.
“We see this as a good way to introduce people to robotics,” says Raja. “They may be intimidated, but this makes it accessible.”
We’re excited to try this one out, so look out for a full review soon.