Intel is launching a range of open source, 3D-printable robots aimed at teaching coding and engineering skills at schools and universities.

Dubbed ‘Jimmy - the 21st Century Robot’, the humanoid is the creation of a group of companies including Intel and Tresson Robotics. 

“The idea is that we are trying to build a platform and then we can give to other people to customise,” Brian David Johnson, Intel’s resident futurist, told Techworld.

“So we say we don’t know what a 21st century robot does or even looks like, but you should build your own robot, give it a name and then start writing apps.”

“It can do whatever you want it to do - it is like a smartphone with legs.”

The kit provides budding engineers and developers with the kit for the endo-skeleton and the ability to download design files to customise the look of the robot. Its outer layers can then be 3D printed and attached to the main body. 

There is also an XDK (cross development kit), that allows apps to written an down loaded to the robot, controlling aspects of the robot’s behaviour, such as speech or movement.

“One of the things we have been doing is working with 10 year old kids and having them design robots,” Brian David Johnson, Intel’s resident futurist, told Techworld. 

“Their robots are awesome - they tell jokes and they wear capes and stuff like that.”

Jimmy comes in two versions, a larger and costlier robot ($16,000), aimed at universities and businesses, runs on an Intel Core i5 processor, while a smaller version ($1,600) is aimed at teaching kids in schools the basics of coding. In the next five years the price could drop below $1,000.

The smaller version relies on Intel’s Edison ‘maker’ computer platform, which uses a dual core 22 nanometre Atom SoC (system-on-chip) CPU, and a 32-bit Quark processor MCU. The $50 platform, officially launched at IDF 2014, incorporates wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity, allowing the robot to follow instructions remotely.

The Edison chip is attached to a sub-controller that connects to the robot’s servos and motors, coordinating its movements.

“Without Edison this would not have been possible - two years ago this would not have existed.  That is because it has onboard wi-fi and Bluetooth, and it is an Atom dual core chip so it has real computational power on it.  Also the power draw is so small that it can have a small battery.”

“It is a 10x cost reduction from the larger Core i5 robot, simply by moving to Edison. That means it is actually something that more schools can actually use it now.”