Open-source robots get boost from Kickstarter

ArcBotics, an educational robotics company based in Cambridge, Mass., recently earned the latest Kickstarter victory for open-source robotics.

After being featured as one of Kickstarter’s Top 3 projects in a weekly email earlier this month, the company successfully funded Sparki, an Arduino-based robot designed as an introduction to programming and electronics for kids ages 11 and up. With three days left to go in its campaign, Sparki has more than doubled its funding goal of $60,000 with nearly $160,000 pledged.

This is actually the second successful Kickstarter campaign for the company — last year it introduced a robot called Hexy the Hexapod geared toward more advanced users — and ArcBotics is hardly the only robotics company taking advantage of Kickstarter’s funding model. Right now there are more than 400 projects related to robots listed on Kickstarter. These include the modular Linkbot (20 days to go); the Bot-Logic Hexapod (42 days to go); and BrickPi, which turns your Raspberry Pi computer into a Lego robot (already funded!).

There’s even a project that will support construction of a giant wooden robot that “celebrates the creative spirit and rich history of Florida’s roadside attractions.” (Unsurprisingly, that one has also reached its funding goal.)

Last year, OpenROV — the open-source underwater exploration robot — blew away its fundraising goals on Kickstarter. It’s become one of the big success stories to come out of the “maker” movement of do-it-yourself culture, with the New York Times declaring that it could “change the future of ocean exploration.” Other projects that received funding on Kickstarter include BERO, a open-source robot controlled with bluetooth, and Fritz, a robotic puppet head you operate with an app.

Kickstarter has generated a lot of buzz in various circles that it will change the way business is done. Much of that is probably overstated, but tech-savvy and Kickstarter-friendly robotics enthusiasts seem to have positioned this industry to take advantage of crowd-funding as well as any other.

[ photo courtesy of ArcBotics ]