Robotic toy car drives engineering students' business venture

Jul 15, 2013 by Natalie Pierce And Joe Kullman
Robotic toy car drives engineering students' business venture
Members of the Infinibotics team developing an autonomous robotic toy car as an educational tool include, from left to right: Edward Andert, team mentor Aviral Shrivastava, Roger Dolan and Bryce Holton. Credit: Jessica Slater/ASU

A robotic toy car first developed as a class project is now the basis of a business startup by a group of Arizona State University engineering students.

They're designing Cosmo – the car's name – as a tool for teaching pre-school-age children basic math and spelling through games programmed into the robot's software.

The venture, called Infinibotics, recently got a boost by winning support through the ASU Venture Catalyst program's Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative. The Cosmo team will receive some funding, along with business mentoring and office space during the 2013-2014 academic year.

The team includes computer systems engineering graduate Edward Andert and Roger Dolan, computer science graduate students Shang Wang and Bryce Holton, and mechanical engineering senior Austin Deveny.

Their faculty adviser is Aviral Shrivastava, an associate professor in the School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering, one of ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Infinibotics stems from an idea Shrivastava came up with two years ago to teach students in one of his senior capstone engineering design courses to apply basic computer design principles to producing a robotic toy car.

Using image-processing algorithms, the students were first instructed to follow a person walking so they could understand the mechanics of what they wanted to enable the vehicle to do.

Robotic toy car drives engineering students' business venture
Cosmo, the toy robotic car being developed by a team of ASU engineering students, can follow simple voice commands. Credit: Jessica Slater/ASU

Students in the first class to undertake the project assembled the necessary components to make the car work. Another class developed the computer software for detection and tracking, enabling the car to follow behind someone as they walked.

Eventually, the remote-controlled vehicle could be directed to outmaneuver darts shot from a toy turret.

The students showcased the robot car at ASU's annual Engineering Open House last spring and found that "children were loving the toy," according to Cosmo team member Andert. One father asked if he could buy the toy vehicle for his son.

When Shrivastava's five-year-old daughter, Lehka, played with the toy, she asked her father if the car could be made to stop when she told it to and if it could play spelling games with her.

Her questions and feedback from others who saw the robot at the open house sparked a new phase of the project – developing the robot car as an educational toy for children.

The students have already altered the robot's software to enable it to follow voice commands such as "Cosmo, follow" and "Cosmo, stop."

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The Infinibotics team that formed to turn the project into a product is designing the next Cosmo prototype to provide more interactive features. Ideas include enabling the robot toy to play hide-and-seek and treasure-hunt games that present simple math and spelling challenges.

"It will require a lot more engineering on our part," Andert says, "and that will probably take the better part of the next year."

After that, the team will face manufacturing and marketing challenges. But winning support from the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative is a confidence builder, team member Holton says.

"When we found out that we won, it was an overwhelming feeling," he says. "It felt so good that we stacked up well against the other teams" competing for Edson awards. "It really bonded our team together."

Read more about Infinibotics and see a video of the Cosmo robotic in action at http://aviral.lab.asu.edu/?p=1182

Explore further: Eye implant could lead to better glaucoma treatment

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Engineering the Kelpies

8 minutes ago

Recently, Falkirk in Scotland saw the opening of the Kelpies, two thirty metre high horse head sculptures either side of a lock in a new canal extension.

Technology on the catwalk

18 minutes ago

Summer days bring thoughts of beach picnics, outdoor barbecues and pool parties. Yet it only takes the buzz of one tiny mosquito to dampen the fun.

Dismantling ships and the trajectory of steel

53 minutes ago

Tell me how you dismantle a ship, and I'll tell how a region can prosper from its steel! This could be the motto of this master's cycle at ENAC during which the projects of two civil engineering students ...

Eye implant could lead to better glaucoma treatment

23 hours ago

For the 2.2 million Americans battling glaucoma, the main course of action for staving off blindness involves weekly visits to eye specialists, who monitor—and control—increasing pressure within the eye.

Electricity helping the blind navigate

Aug 25, 2014

Specialists at the Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM) developed a device able to guide blind or visually impaired people in established routes through electrical stimulation of the organs associated ...

User comments : 0