DIY: Meet the ultimate robotics kit for makers

It's no toy. This robotics dev kit could provide the raw ingredients for a DIY robotics revolution.

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Bolstered by $10M in Series A funding, Vincross, a consumer robotics company we've been following closely, is releasing what may be the most alluring DIY robotics kit for makers yet. Vincross is best known for its six-legged all-terrain robot called HEXA, which was geared toward developers and garnered strong reviews from robotics professionals and enthusiasts 

Combining an impressive central processing unit capable of complex AI computations and Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM), a server controller that can power up to 20 motors, and a robust battery, Vincross is betting its MIND Kit will appeal to serious developers, as well as enthusiasts and educators. But it's not an easy market. DIY robotics kits have been scattershot and mostly aimed at STEM education. The space is crowded and dominated by a handful of early arrivals and big players, including LEGO Mindstorms

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Vincross' founder, Tianqi Sun, believes the timing is right for a more capable robotics kit, one that could be used to create genuinely useful machines. According to a company spokesperson:

The launch of MIND Kit is opportune in an environment when robotics is garnering greater visibility of its future impact to society, but in reality the opportunities to learn about or even develop complex robotics doesn't exist outside of the laboratory or children's robotics development kits.

Vincross points out that 90 percent of Americans think that learning about robotics will aid job security, but just 5 percent of Americans have attempted to develop a robotics program, according to a Harris Poll commissioned by the company. An additional 62 percent of Americans feel robotics hardware is inaccessible.

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"HEXA was the most sophisticated all-purpose consumer robot that empowered even software developers to manipulate HEXA, but we saw a demand to make robotics development just as easy for both developing hardware and software," said Tianqi Sun, CEO and Founder of Vincross. "MIND Kit was a natural evolution from HEXA and hope to inspire more aspiring roboticists out of the classroom and building real world use cases for robotics."

The kit, powered by a proprietary OS with an easy-to-use SDK, is built with modularity in mind. It supports plug-and-play accessories like a LiDAR sensor, a 4-axis Robotic Arm, caterpillar tracks and a wheel base, and speaker and microphone arrays. Examples of robots built with the kit include a multi-tentacled robot table mate that passes salt and pepper and an all-terrain autonomous sensor platform. The idea is that the kit is flexible enough to support a variety of forms and functions.

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In that respect it shares in the spiritual legacy of TurtleBot, famous in robotics circles as one of the first open source robotics development platforms from now-defunct WillowGarage.

Where it differs from TurtleBot is in the obvious attention its creators have paid to design. With $17M in funding and a keen eye for presentation, Vincross is positioned to become a major player in the DIY robotics space.

MIND Kit's basic kit, including the CPU, is available for on Kickstarter for $99 USD and will later retail for $150 USD. A combo kit, comprised of the CPU, a servo Controller, and robot battery, will be available for $199 on Kickstarter.