Very nice piece in German on Heise by Hans-Arthur Marsiske on robots as play companions. The article is part of a series on robots in everyday life and titled Robots in everyday life: The playmate. We are very excited to see flatcat discussed extensively including a video interview with Jetpack founder / CTO Matthias Kubisch, among coverage of Playful machines by Ralf Der ad Georg Martius, as well as a good sample of other playmate robots available on the market. In relation, this highlights the unique approach and character of flatcat within the larger robotics ecosystem.
Quoting as a teaser
This thing is a robot, is called Flatcat and does – nothing: It just wants to play. It is not capable of doing anything else at all. Its developers at Jetpack Cognition Lab, a Berlin-based company founded in 2019, have not equipped it with displays or other means of data input, nor with visual or auditory sensors. Flatcat only perceives forces acting on it, reacts to them and gradually develops a behavior from these experiences.
Anyone who brings this techno-pet into their home or laboratory will have the opportunity to follow the development of its thinking ability and thus of an artificial personality up close and in real time – just like a biological pet.
Hans-Arthur Marsiske, Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Another day, another overdue update. What is happening at Jetpack Cognition Lab since we last wrote?
Main prototype flatcat2 is running smoothly on the new energy module for days. Last week we ordered the Lipo batteries to be used in your flatcats. They are standard cells (18650) that can be easily replaced in case of a battery failing. In the house already.
Same goes for the motors, order has been placed with the manufacturer and we are waiting for the shipment, expected to arrive in a few weeks.
Development currently focuses on extending the basic behavior we have right now with more elaborate exploration algorithms which will lead to more diverse episodes of different things it does.
What started to impinge on us as a flickering halo quickly turned into a full out real global phenomenon, driven by our ~friends~ of #automotive: a global semiconductor shortage. For several flatcat related PCB designs we could not acquire the required chips and packages anymore. Too bad, so we turned forward and redesigned the boards to accommodate available packages. These will be sent to manufacture soon and comprise the last big chunk of supplies we need before we can finish the hardware aka flatcat chassis. This is how we roll.
The flatcat endurance poster is WIP and we will at some point come back with this specifically to get your early feedback on a few design variations.
On tangential notes, we had a TV crew in the house last week for shooting an episode to be included in the “Einfach genial” (Simply genius) format of German public channel MDR. The piece is going to be aired September upwards, keep you posted when it’s hot.
A new application for flatcat was discovered recently in the lab, which is realtime control of musical parameters through the force sensitive interface that the robot is. Here, we are sending 2 x 4 state variables from the joints to a digital sysnthesizer using OpenSoundControl. It works very well and was used in a public performance at the legendary and exclusive NNOI festival an hour north of Berlin on the weekend July 2-4, 2021.
Finally, if you want to read more, we have a fresh piece of techno-philosophy posted on the blog here.
Always love to have your feedback and learn what you are up to.
Entweder haben Sie schon eins, oder Sie werden bald eins haben. Roboterhaustiere erobern die Verbrauchermärkte weltweit in Form von Babyrobben, Hundewelpen oder einem schwanzwedelnden Kissen. Jetzt bekommen sie Gesellschaft von einer überfahrenen Katze.
flatcat wurde von Gizmodo ((https://gizmodo.com/the-flatcat-cant-even-walk-but-its-instantly-the-creep-1846366550)) als “der gruseligste Roboter, den man je gesehen hat” betitelt, und das mag für einige tatsächlich so sein. Für viele andere ist es ein zugegebenermaßen seltsames, aber niedliches Roboter-Haustier, das sie umarmen und mit dem sie spielen wollen.
Die ersten paar Flatcats sind ab sofort und nur noch sieben Tage lang auf Kickstarter ((https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bakiwi/flatcat), der beliebtesten Crowdfunding-Website, erhältlich. Die Kampagne steht kurz vor der Vollfinanzierung, braucht aber noch ein paar entscheidende Zusagen von Roboter-Enthusiasten aus nah und fern, die etwas bewegen wollen.
Der Roboter, der von Jetpack Cognition Lab , einem in Berlin ansässigen Unternehmen mit Grazer Wurzeln entwickelt und hergestellt wird, ist ein Roboter der neuen Art. Er ist völlig anders als alle anderen vergleichbaren Produkte auf dem Markt. Was ihn einzigartig macht, ist seine sensomotorische Kompetenz, die Kräfte seiner eigenen Bewegung und die von außen durch Menschen oder einfach durch die Schwerkraft erzeugten Kräfte zu spüren und darauf zu reagieren.
Die Fähigkeit, Kräfte direkt in den Gelenken zu spüren, erlaubt es Flatcat, neugierig zu sein und seinen eigenen Körper und die Welt auf die sicherste Art und Weise zu erkunden. Die Technologie dafür kommt aus dem Forschungsfeld der Entwicklungsrobotik, bei dem Teile der Entwicklung von Tieren und Menschen in Software und Algorithmen umgesetzt werden.
Mögliche Verwendungszwecke von flatcat sind als Haustier im Wohnzimmer, um einfach zu spielen und gemeinsam die Welt der sensomotorischen Erfahrung und Bewegung zu erkunden; als therapeutischer Roboter, um sanft einfache Bewegungen zu stimulieren, Gesellschaft und Trost zu spenden; oder als Desktop-Forschungs-Roboter für Wissenschaftler und Hacker:innen gleichermaßen, da er neben seiner hochmodernen sensomotorischen Sensibilität auch Open Source, erweiterbar und modifizierbar ist.
Seit seinen Anfängen im Jahr 2019 bringt Jetpack Cognition Lab radikale Innovationen aus der wissenschaftlichen Forschung auf den Konsumentenmarkt. Die Gründer des Labs sind Dr. Oswald Berthold und Matthias Kubisch. Sie lernten sich während ihres Studiums an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin kennen und taten sich zusammen, um die schrägsten und lustigsten Roboter der Welt zu entwickeln.
Berthold ist ein in österreichischer Künstler-Technologe, geboren in Graz, der schon mit dem Kollektiv farmersmanual Musikgeschichte geschrieben hat, indem er neuartige Stile und innovative Ansätze zur digitalen Musikproduktion und -veröffentlichung im Internetzeitalter einführte. Spätestens seit er 2018 seine Promotion in Robotik innerhalb der Adaptive Systems Group der HU Berlin abgeschlossen hat, ist er damit beschäftigt, Grundlagenforschung in Kundennutzen zu verwandeln.
Kubisch ist ein deutscher Informatiker, Kreativer und Aktivist. Er hat als wesentliches Mitglied des Teams gearbeitet, das den modularen humanoiden Roboter Myon im ALEAR-Projekt unter der Leitung von Dr. Manfred Hild entwickelt hat. Außerdem hat er die Industrie von innen gesehen und Algorithmen zur Steuerung von elektrischen Kraftwerken entwickelt. Er ist nicht nur ein Experte für adaptive Echtzeitalgorithmen und maschinelles Lernen, sondern auch ein genialer Elektronikdesigner und Produktvisionär.
You either have one already, you are going to have one soon. Robot pets are taking to consumer markets worldwide in the shapes of baby seals, dog puppies, or a tail-wagging cushion. Now they are getting company by an overrun cat.
flatcat has been titled “the creepiest robot ever seen” by Gizmodo and that may indeed be so for some. For many others, it is an admittedly strange yet cute robotic pet, which they want to hug and play with.
The first few flatcats are available right now for the first time, and only for seven more days, on Kickstarter, the most popular crowdfunding website. The campaign is close to being fully funded, but does need a few more and decisive pledges by robot enthusiasts near and far, who like to make a difference.
The robot, designed and manufactured by Berlin based Jetpack Cognition Lab, is one of a new kind. It is entirely different from all other comparable products on the market. What makes it unique is its sensorimotor competence, the ability to feel, and react to the forces of its own motion, and those created on the outside by humans or simply by gravity.
The ability to feel forces directly in its joints allows flatcat to be curious and explore its own body and the world in the safest way possible. The technology for doing that is coming from a research field called developmental robotics, where parts of the development of animals and humans are put into software and algorithms.
Possible uses of flatcat are as a living room pet to simply play with and jointly explore the world of sensorimotor experience and motion; as a therapeutic robot to gently stimulate simple motions, provide company and comfort; or as a desktop research robot for scientists and hackers alike, by being open source, extensible and modifiable in addition to its cutting edge sensorimotor sensitivity.
Since its beginnings in 2019, Jetpack Cognition Lab is pushing radical innovations from scientific research onto the consumer market. The founders of the lab are Dr. Oswald Berthold and Matthias Kubisch. They met during their studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and teamed up to create the weirdest and funniest robots alive.
Berthold is an Austrian artist-technologist, born in Graz, and has previously written music history with the farmersmanual collective by introducing novel styles and innovative approaches to digital music production and publishing in the internet age. Since finishing his doctorate in robotics with the Adaptive Systems Group of HU Berlin in 2018, he is busy turning fundamental research into customer value.
Kubisch is a German computer scientist, creative and activist. He has worked as an essential member of the team that created the Myon modular humanoid robot in the ALEAR project led by Dr. Manfred Hild. Also he has seen industry from the inside developing electrical power plant control algorithms. On top of being an expert on realtime adaptive algorithms and machine learning, he is an ingenious electronics designer and product visionary.
We believe that modern robotics/AI needs a boost from the bottom, to take another two to three steps back and take the time to close the sensorimotor gap and look intensively at learning procedures before moving on to higher function such as assistance for humans.
That’s why we developed flatcat as an open, extremely simplified platform from the ground up to enable people from different scientific and research fields, as well as developers and engineers, to develop their own applications or solve research questions with a real robot. flatcat is designed to be inexpensive and highly simplified, making it accessible to many.
flatcat is open-source in hardware, firmware and software. The circuits are just as studiable and expandable as the software. The mechanics are made of 3D-printed parts and can therefore be repaired and adapted over and over again. We use readily available off-the-shelf components as much as possible to ensure parts availability. The design is modular and expandable, e. g. more joints, different motors, new controllers, more sensors etc. The mechanics is portable and lightweight, i. e. results can be presented live, mobile use is possible, etc. The motion dimension of flatcat is 2-dimensional and the reduced complexity is initially very convenient for many problems, the robot can be maintained and operated by one person, (desktop research robot).
flatcat provides a Python/C++ interface for the development of applications. The host platform is a Raspberry Pi (Zero/W) with WiFi module which drives the motors via a symmetric, i. e. insensitive data bus (RS-485, 1MBaud).
The power supply can be 6-12V, the internal battery is a 2-cell lithium polymer battery with 7.4V nominal voltage (6.6 – 8.4V, low to high). A stationary power supply can also be connected.
The motor controllers are a Jetpack open-source development: called Sensorimotor. They have rich sensory feedback (bidirectional current, supply voltage, temperature, 300° position, and speed) and provide various control modes such as position PID and Cognitive Sensorimotor Loops (CSL). The motors can also be used for simple sound generation (Beta).
While preparing flatcat for release and the time before we collected and researched our peers and competition. Below is the first draft of our pet robot comparison matrix. The matrix lists several related robots on the market and shows different features on the columns.
Mobility comes to mind immediately to be added, in the meantime the top three rows are immobile robots. Prices are approximate and in USD units. The “touch+” criterion means there is a motor in the robot that can feel a force applied through touch or gravity. For this we use our in-house Sensorimotor module. More on that soon. Be in touch with any questions or comments and more things to include.
Pet robots comparison matrix simple
Legend: Yes (Y), No (N), Crowdfunding (C), Pre-order (P), S (Secondary market), M (Maybe)
Just back from watching David Attenborough: A life on our planet.
If you haven’t, watch it. It’s on Netflix.
The movie makes a case on Biodiversity and highlights how biodiversity is connected in straightforward ways with our own health and prosperity. Remember that all of #Covid19 is itself only a part in an ongoing severe biodiversity crisis.
The view of earth shown in the picture above was not generally known to people before the late 1960s, except to a few imaginative visionaries. It is not about saving the planet though. It is about saving our own asses. Right here, right now. Anything else is procrastination, neglect, or worse. Anyway, lets not get stalled.
You ask, what does this have to do with Jetpack Cognition Lab? The answer is, just about everything. Read on to find out.
In whichever way exactly the sustainability turn is realized, there is going to be autonomous mobile robots in it.
These are likely scenarios but far from complete. Drones need support on the ground and up in the tree. They also need to go beneath the foliage because this is where it happens. That is all quite complicated stuff. The autonomous mobility of the robots we currently have is still a far cry from anything practically usable, and this includes affordable.
Mainstream promises have not realized anywhere despite trillions of sunk budgets, private and public. Remote death operations is as good as it gets.
The developments we are observing are not fast enough by some orders of magnitude. As more people need to be able to work on all that, the approach clearly needs to be massively diversified.
How is this done? You are right, with self-learning robots of course, with education and inspiration. This is a massive challenge and we need to take steps that might appear weird from the outside.
Where are you in this? We are very curious to learn and let us know anytime. Out here with the mobile Jetpack Cognition Lab and we need you support in every possible way.
flatcat is the next step towards creating robots that are built for learning all the way up. Does that scare you? good, this is how you and everyone else works, on the inside that is. Time to get to grips with yourself.
Jetpack Cognition Lab, a Berlin-based AI and robotics startup, today announced flatcat, a new consumer robot, to be launched in March 2021. flatcat is a firm and fluffy AI pet for the living room, that responds to touch and gravity, and has a playful life of its own.
flatcat invites to experience a new dimension of touch and motion. Cuddle with it, have a gentle romp, or just watch it do weird things on its own, to caress your soul. The robot feels everything exactly with cognitive sensorimotor loops based on ten years of developmental robotics research. flatcat has no face, no app, no cloud, full privacy. It is built around a 3D printed skeleton and is powered by Jetpack Cognition Lab‘s own electrical motor design.
The new product will be available on Kickstarter and selected outlets beginning March 3, 2021. Visit https://flatcat.berlin for more information.
About Jetpack Cognition Lab Established in 2019, Jetpack Cognition Lab is a Berlin-based AI and Robotics startup and innovation hub. Founded by Oswald Berthold and Matthias Kubisch, it specializes in science transfer and product research. The company’s bioinspired hardware and software design is built on the neuroscience and psychology of developmental learning.