Apr 26, 2016 | By Benedict

Tech startup ZeroUI, based in San Jose, California, has launched an Indiegogo campaign for Ziro, the “world’s first hand-controlled robotics kit”. The modular kit has been designed to bring 3D printed creations to life, and has already surpassed its $30,000 campaign goal.

It would be fair to say that the phenomenon of gesture recognition, throughout the wide variety of consumer electronics to which it has been introduced, has been a mixed success. The huge popularity of the Nintendo Wii showed that—for the right product—users were happy to use their hands and bodies as controllers, but for every Wii, there are a million useless webcam or smartphone functions, lying dormant, unused, and destined for the technology recycle bin.

One particular method of gesture recognition has, for novelty reasons or otherwise, endured in the public imagination ever since Tom Cruise tried to overcome the problem of determinism in the 2002 tech thriller Minority Report. That movie addressed some pretty serious philosophical issues, but it also provided viewers with a memorable scene in which Cruise’s character dons a futuristic glove in order to control a kind of projected computer interface. These wired gloves, sometimes known as “cybergloves”, have actually been used in various real life applications since the late 1970s, but—according to ZeroUI—never as a means to control robots.

Sensing a gap in the market, the startup started working on Ziro back in 2013. The team assembled some early prototypes in early 2014, and the robotics kit gradually evolved into a user-friendly commercial product which—thanks to the success of its recent (and still active) Indiegogo campaign—will soon be mass-produced. The kit comes with of a number of 3.81” x 2.95” x 1.38” actuator Modules (how many you get depends on the level of kit you order), each equipped with a 32-bit processor, WiFi connectivity, 90rpm motor. These Modules can then be attached to any kind of robot, 3D printed or otherwise, and can form the basis of wheels, joints, and other moving parts.

To control the robot, users—following in Tom Cruise’s hand/footsteps—put on a “Smart Glove”, included in the kit, which is equipped with flex bend sensors and a 5-axis inertial measurement unit, as well as having a 32-bit processor and WiFi connectivity. The Smart Glove can be programmed to control each Module in various ways using the kit’s dedicated smartphone app. The Smart Glove responds to seven different kinds of hand gesture, giving users a significant degree of control over the Modules and the robots of which they are a part, and has a play time of around 4 hours, depending on the intensity of play. Each Module has a play time of around 7 hours.

While ZeroUI designed the robotics kit with 3D printed creations in mind, the Modules can equally well be attached to store-bought toys and homemade creations made with other materials. Interestingly, additive manufacturing technology also assisted the startup in other ways, with several previous iterations of Ziro 3D printed to save time and money.

The cheapest Ziro kit available through Indiegogo is the $149 Ziro Starter Kit, which consists of 1 Smart Glove, 2 Modules, the Ziro Smartphone App, and assembly parts for the “Ziro Trike”. More complete kits are also available, with the most deluxe option being the $1,749 Distributor Pack, containing 10 Ziro Pro Kits (40 Modules, 10 Gloves). Estimated delivery for all products is January 2017.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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