Reach Robotics, one of the leading tech startups in Bristol, has launched its next generation of consumer robots, building a whole new Augmented Reality (AR) system around them.
The technology stack for the Mekamon V2 robots has been completely re-built to take advantage of the ARcore and ARkit technologies that run on smartphones. The phones then create a ‘play space’ in the real world for the robots to operate in without having to use markers as previous AR systems did. A key addition is that both physical and virtual robots can operate in this space (shown above), which takes into account factors such as obstacles and open doors to create an unlimited space.
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“While we are a local Bristol company we have global ambitions and we are growing a global robotics company here,” said Silas Adekunle, co-founder and chief executive of Reach who started the company while at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory. “The main difference is the vision is to change consumer robotics to something that you can play with all the time and download firmware updates. The V1 didn’t scratch the surface of what we could do.”
The V2 robots have been enhanced with smoother motors and more expressive movements, all based around a PIC microcontroller, four infrared transceivers to identify other robots and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless link to the phone. Reach designs the whole system, with the robots built in China by a contract manufacturing partner, and has a deal to sell the robots through the Apple store.
There are over 70 pre-set animations for the robots, but users can create and share their own using a stop-frame animation tool. Reach is also has a sequencing tool to programme the robots to perform a range of activities using the Scratch programming language.
Players – known as MekaPilots – can customise their robot physically with detachable shields and weapons. In-game, MekaMon will learn and adapt depending on how players battle, becoming more cautious or aggressive in its fighting style.
The MekaMon robots will also react to the world and its MekaPilot, exhibiting angry, bored or happy gestures, so that players will know how their MekaMon is feeling thanks to an improved idling and character engine.
The V2 robots are fully compatible with the previous generation and are available at £249.99 from MekaMon.com and through the Apple store.