The days of snapping your fingers to get your robot to come ambling by with the bottle of cold beer you asked for are at hand.
Meet Jimmy, Intel's 3D-printed two-foot tall humanoid robot who accompanied Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich on stage at the Re/code Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Jimmy can walk, talk, dance, tweet and get you a beer if you program him to.
Jimmy is a research robot that runs on a robust Intel Core i5 processor and costs $16,000 to build from the ground up, but if you don't have that much cash for a beer-fetching robot, you can go for the cheaper, less advanced consumer model for $1,600, which Intel plans to introduce to tech-savvy do-it-your-selfers and robotics enthusiasts in the coming months.
Anyone with a 3D printer will be able to create their own version of Jimmy. Intel will make the hardware designs freely available for download on 21stcenturyrobot.com so you can print and assemble the robot parts on your own. Other parts that cannot be printed, such as wires, motors, batteries and the low-cost Intel Edison system on a chip (SoC) your robot will run on, will be available in kits from the website.
David Brian Johnson, Intel's futurist who came up with the 21st Century Robot Project whose result is Jimmy, says he wants to see a future where people build their robots and personalize them to fit their needs and preferences, just like the way they customize their smartphones.
"The idea behind the 21st century robot is that every robot has a name because every robot is an individual, because every robot is built by a person" he says [video]. "What if you could program it just by saying, 'Oh, I want my robot to be able to dance?' Or 'I want my robot to help keep me in shape or make sure I get up on time.' In that way, robots become a part of our lives just like our smartphones have. And it kind of captures a little bit of your own humanity, your own dreams, what you want your future to be like."
Jimmy runs on an open-source platform based upon ROBOTIS and Virginia Tech University's Darwin-OP framework. This will allow third-party developers to create their own software they want to run on the robot, much like the way app-makers create all sorts of apps for smartphones.
The humanoid robot is the result of collaboration among Intel, USC, Olin College and Trossen Robotics. Intel hopes that, in five years, it will be able to drive down costs for its robot kits to $1,000.