How Legos Could Revolutionize the Robotics Industry
The simple Lego. A little tool with a lot of potential.
This year, Legos have proven their worth as more than a great toy for both kids and adults, helping to play a major role in the advancement of robotics, both through their own contributions to the field or their well-known ability to inspire others to create. Iko, a prosthetic arm that can be modified with Legos, won the 2015 Core77 Design Awards in July. Creator Carlos Arturo Torres teamed up with Lego Future Lab and CIREC, a foundation for physical rehabilitation to create the product, which has gained recognition throughout the field of prosthetic design.
The prosthetic has a detachable robotic hand controlled using myoelectric sensors for functional use, but with a processing unit and engine compatible with Lego Mindstorms and Lego tubes where Lego parts can be attached, this prosthetic goes beyond functional to fun. Torres hopes that his invention will combat the loneliness and negativity of prosthetics and create a product that doesn't just serve a child's functional needs, but their social and creative needs as well. Thanks to Torres, a prosthetic does not have to be just a prosthetic. It could be just about anything its user dreams up.
Italian designer Danny Benedettelli has also incorporated Legos into his inventing process, creating an exoskeleton-controlled Lego robot. The robot was built using Lego's Mindstorms NXT robotics kit, but Benedettelli went a step further in customization, creating not just a robot, but a robot that could react to his own movements.
The Cyclops MK II received transmissions from the exoskeleton through Bluetooth, and the suit is covered in potentiometers that record and transmit every movement to the robot.
Sure, the Lego prosthetic arm would not be possible with pre-existing prosthetic technology, and Benedettelli's robot is not the first to be controlled using an exoskeleton. However, the use of Legos in serious technology, which could just be seen as a fun addition more than a revolution, actually could have major implication in the future development of robotics.
Recently, I wrote about Snakebot, a robot designed to be not just a stand-alone robot, but a basic building block of robotics and a tool to be built upon and manipulated by robitics developers. The use of a simple building tool to create more complex robots would save time and money as well as allow for greater creativity and invention. The Snakebot is a relatively simple and versatile tool, but what could be simpler or more versatile than the humble Lego?
The Lego website states that their goal is to "inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow through creative play and learning." Already, and without much prompting, robotic advances are being made using this famous children's toy. As long as inventing can be as fun as playing with Legos, who knows what technologies will be advanced and, quite literally, built next?