Rapiro – the cutest robot you’ll ever meet, now on Kickstarter

A new Kickstarter was launched this morning: check out the video first, and then I’ll tell you about what we’ve seen first-hand of the project.

We met Shota Ishiwatari at the three-day Raspberry Jam in Tokyo in May. He’s an established inventor of very, very cool stuff – you may have read about his Nekomimi cat ears, which were featured all over the internet when they came out last year. These ears have a 14-point electroencephalography sensor that presses against your forehead; they’re operated by your brainwaves, and lie flat, twitch or perk up in line with your emotions. Here’s a short video in case you’ve not seen them before:

And here’s some British lady wearing a pair. They really do work. No video, thank God. You can buy a set at Nekomimi.com.

Shota-san has real skill in getting that very special sort of Japanese cuteness (there’s even a word for it: かわいい, or kawaii) combined with tech. He does all the technical development, CAD and physical modelling, circuit design and building, programming (and sewing, in the case of Nekomimi) himself. His current Kickstarter is Rapiro, (RAspberryPIRObot), and it’s quite the most かわいい thing I’ve ever seen. Rapiro had his first public outing at a hardware breakout session at the Tokyo Jam.

You’ll notice that the prototype we’re playing with here is not the same as the one in the Kickstarter video; after the event we got Shota-san sorted out with a camera board in time for the Kickstarter. Rapiro’s not just cute: he’s very adaptable. He’s voice activated (and he can be set to recognise and respond to only his owner’s voice), or, with a wifi or bluetooth dongle, he can be controlled with a phone or gaming handset. He’s a connected device, so he can alert you to emails or Facebook messages; he can manage your calendar and work as a sort of very cute secretary/butler, bringing you objects from around the house and reminding you about meetings. Away from home for the week? Walk him around the house and use the camera in his forehead to monitor what’s going on: Rapiro makes a great security droid. He can even water your plants for you while you’re away. And with an IR LED, he can act as a remote control for your TV, or turn on your air conditioning if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where it’s needed.

And because the technology is Pi-based, Rapiro will, if it makes its Kickstarter goals, be much less expensive than currently available equivalents. Shota-san says that at the retail price he’s set, Rapiro works out at 1/4th the price of current aesthetic robot kits, and 1/10th the price of current Linux-powered humanoid robot kits.

The prototype we got to see worked perfectly. We’ve already ordered a unit for the Foundation, which we’re going to be using in schools and other teaching workshops. We think robotics is a really powerful way to get young people interested in physical computing, and we think Rapiro is the most engaging and inviting example of Pi-based robotics we’ve seen yet. This is a Kickstarter we’re very exited about.

Many thanks to Yuriko Ikeda for the photographs (thank you very much for the homemade umeboshi too, Yuriko-san, and for the recipe!)

29 comments

ukscone avatar

too cute :) needs to be combined with the previous blog post about your coffee machine so that once the coffee is made Rapiro delivers it to your desk

Homer Hazel avatar

Darn, I already supported one robotic control device on Kickstarter and that was the Brick Pi. The Brick Pi will control the Lego Technic motors and sensors and servos. It was not nearly as cute as this robot, but you can hook it to Lego robots and drive them around wirelessly.

Homer Hazel avatar

Oh my, please fix the first word, it was supposed to be darn. I did not proofread because it is a tiny box.

Homer Hazel avatar

Never mind, it really is the correct word, just my iPads font made it look incorrect.

andrum99 avatar

Is that a battery on its back?

john avatar

Will you be sharing the recipe, Liz? I’m hungry!

Michael Horne avatar

And there’s the solution to your coffee damaged carpet problem :-) Very cool, and very cute

Alex Eames (RasPi.TV) avatar

That is really nice. Want one.

Chi Man avatar

The cute robot reminds me of the Japanese TV classic Ultraman.

Krishna avatar

Cute, want one immediately.

fos avatar

Really great idea. I tried to back at the 5 pound level. No joy.

I’ll try some other time. Maybe it is a US thing.

M@ avatar

This thing needs a Pico projector, a la R2D2. “Help me Obiwan Kenobi…”

Dominic avatar

Wow great. Now he should team up with this project here flying car on Kickstarter to make the robot the ultimate agile companion!

Tehuberpi avatar

Somebody needs to paint him like Ironman!

Ravenous avatar

@Liz: that dose of ‘Flu has really done something odd to your ears!

Ken MacIver avatar

S’obvious very nasty case of “Cat Flu”

mongrol avatar

Let’s not over sell this here. Yes it can do the things mentioned but only if your program it to do so. It “could” patrol your house. It “could” fetch your email but it won’t out he box. All this complex logic needs to be programmed in. There’s not mention of any API to enable it to do all these things. It’s as basic as any normal gertboard powered robot structure. Very cool though. I hope it takes off.

Ravenous avatar

Correct, it would need quite a lot kinematics knowledge to get it walking smoothly like that.

And the bit where it “types” by jabbing the keyboard with a pen – fantastic, but its an even slower typist than I am!

Great idea though. It’s going to be popular with amateur roboticists who know how to do this stuff but just need a tidy-looking shell.

edwinj85 avatar

Looks awesome! Would he work with a model a?

svenn avatar

I believe so, if you look at the prototype its connected through the pins on the pi, not the USB; And on 4 AA battery’s that would increase the operating time aswell, I believe;

svenn avatar

This is so cute, though 200 pound isn’t huge, its pretty much for a robot, that needs allot of coding. I don’t think this is as “entry-friendly” as it sounds; But for childeren this would rock, atleast my innerchild is jumping for this project!

TC avatar

Liz in Pink Robotic Ears!
Even if the robot was wearing pink robotic ears it wouldn’t be in the same category. Cute robot… Ha.

OpenBot avatar

Wow, very nice!
It look like our project Openbot.
But with many design such as R2D2:
An Opensource robot with a great API under development.

OpenBot avatar

Mmmm, for the api, mmmm
in the video, he’s using the arduino software :(
but it’s for raspberry pi? no?

Yves McDonald avatar

Fabulous kit! Its white finish let us paint it in any colors we like. A pico-projector sounds like a great idea to project notes, pictures and clips. How about a tatami where he could meditate… and recharge its batteries?

Sarah avatar

it’s so cute I want one so bad!

devaraju avatar

i want this product. where can i get it. i m from india.

aviallon avatar

When we’ll can buy it at a supermarket ?

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