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Open source robotics – is Qbo the ultimate project?

Robotics and artificial intelligence enthusiast Francisco Paz has launched a new open source robot called Qbo. Armless fun or Henry with attitude?

This article originally appeared in issue 89 of Linux User & Developer magazine. Subscribe and save more than 30% and receive our exclusive money back guarantee – click here to find out more.

Qbo RobotRobotics and artificial intelligence enthusiast Francisco Paz has launched a new open source robot called Qbo. Paz’s five-year-long personal project is an attempt to realise the recently stated goal of Tomomasa Sato, director of the Japanese Robotics Association, to develop “an open source Model-T robot in which all global standards may be applied to achieve a result as revolutionary as Ford’s Model-T was for the car industry.”

As with other projects in the growing open source hardware space, Qbo will be made, as far as possible, from off-the-shelf components, and all design plans, firmware and control software will be distributed under an open source licence.

The design, which Paz admits was originally inspired by a vacuum cleaner, is more R2-D2 than C-3PO. “I did not want to develop a biped robot or a robot with arms because I knew I would fail due to the lack of resources,” explained Paz on his blog.

Paz cites Marvin Minsky, co-founder of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, as further inspiration for the project, echoing his critique that “current developers and researchers are making more mechatronic machines instead of creating ‘intelligent’ machines able to carry out autonomous tasks.”

As such, the idea of Qbo is to provide an affordable platform for enthusiasts to implement and develop the latest robotics and artificial intelligence software. Paz has also set up a new company, Thecorpora, to manufacture a production version of Qbo, though no release date has yet been mooted.

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