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: Analyzing gold and steel – rapidly and precisely

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Analyzing gold and steel – rapidly and precisely

10 minutes ago

Optical emission spectrometers are widely used in the steel industry but the instruments currently employed are relatively large and bulky. A novel sensor makes it possible to significantly reduce their size ...

More efficient transformer materials

30 minutes ago

Almost every electronic device contains a transformer. An important material used in their construction is electrical steel. Researchers have found a way to improve the performance of electrical steel and ...

Sensor network tracks down illegal bomb-making

40 minutes ago

Terrorists can manufacture bombs with relative ease, few aids and easily accessible materials such as synthetic fertilizer. Not always do security forces succeed in preventing the attacks and tracking down ...

Miniature camera may reduce accidents

53 minutes ago

Measuring only a few cubic millimeters, a new type of camera module might soon be integrated into future driver assistance systems to help car drivers facing critical situations. The little gadget can be ...

User comments : 0