Jan 15, 2015 | By Alec

We’ve already known for a while that 3D printing technology can do much to improve the lives of disabled children everywhere; just look at the wonderful work E-NABLE is doing. But Dutch/British Wevolver has recently began work on an even more ambitious project that will give hospitalized children something I never thought would be possible with a 3D printer: a trip to the zoo.

For those of you who’ve never heard of them, Wevolver is a promising tech start-up, currently operating out of two offices (Amsterdam and London). They specialize in developing new, exciting and life-altering applications for the ever increasing number of open-source hardware and software. Robotic E-NABLE hands are perhaps the best known example of the type of projects they dabble in, though they generally focus on more high-tech and ambitious projects.

And it obviously doesn’t get much more ambitious than bringing a complete zoo experience to hospitalized children. So how do they achieve that? No, they aren’t 3D printing lion and giraffe toys; instead, they are – in their own words – connecting children to ‘a human size 3D printed robot and virtual reality.’ The children can, essentially, simple wear and Occulus Rift virtual reality headset and use it to guide a robotic construction - moving about on a Segway-like contraption – through London Zoo.

The robot can be controlled from the bed of the children

This project is already nearing a testing stage, and is being realized in collaboration with GOSH, the largest children’s hospital in Britain, and London Zoo. As Richar Huslkes, co-founder of Wevolver, explained: ‘we’re beginning the initial pilot in London, where we are currently in an accelerating stage. But we’re also talking to other hospitals and exploring a world-wide network. It’s a great way to show the whole world what happens when people are not bound by patents, but are instead collaborating to achieve something beautiful. From the moment we first revealed our plans, makers businesses and organizations were already lining up to collaborate. Pretty soon, a sick child in London will be able to visit a zoo in New York thanks to this robot!’

The project is progessing at such incredible speed thanks to the earlier work of Wevolver developers. Specifically, it combines two open source projects: Gael Langevin’s Inmoov with Boris Landoni’s Open Wheels by Boris Landoni. The former is a cleverly designed robot that is controlled by Arduino, while all other parts can be made with a simple 3D printer. The latter project, meanwhile, is essentially an open-source Segway: ‘It is basically a structure composed of a platform and two wheels placed transversely driven by two electric motors. The system itself is stabilized by sophisticated electronic circuitry.’ Together, they can bring the whole world to children who can’t go out and see it for themselves.

While it will take some time before this ‘Robots for Good’ project can be practically implemented, the team behind Wevolver is already even looking at an additional educational purpose. As they stated on the the project’s webpage, ‘Our vision is that schools and makerspaces from all over the world will adopt this idea to teach children about technology and in doing so give back to the world. Our dream is that Inmoov robots will be build all over the world. Kids in London will be able to visit New York using Inmoov’s body. A child in Africa can take a walk through the streets of Paris en talk with local kids about their different cultures.’

Gael Langevin working on his robot.

You could call it overly ambitious, but even Inmoov’s creator Gael Langevin argues that the technology and capacity is already there and is increasingly adopted by schools everywhere. ‘You have an idea, a crazy idea but you just do it!’ Indeed, a regular educational 3D printer should be enough for schools to build an Inmoov robot for themselves. Just add an Arduino and a few servos, and you’re good to go.

 If you, or a school or educator you know is interested in participating, simply go to this page to find all the necessary files to start building. ‘Most people start off with the hand and work their way up from there.’ What could be a more educational 3D printing project for schoolchildren, than one that will let their sick classmate come along on school trips too?



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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asdf wrote at 1/16/2015 5:25:41 AM:

patchcord addams? http://theinfosphere.org/images/thumb/e/e9/Patchord_Adams.png/225px-Patchord_Adams.png

Bob in a box wrote at 1/15/2015 3:53:29 PM:

Very interesting, be nice technology for those house bound.

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