Jetpack Cognition Lab is a science driven robotics startup from Berlin. The lab was founded in 2019 by Oswald Berthold and Matthias Kubisch, two roboticists that came to know each other at Humboldt University of Berlin. The mission and purpose is, on a grand scale, to engage in science communication, and the chosen means to achieve this is through consumer robots. The idea here is to enable a direct experience of cutting edge research, as it drives the motion of what you hold in your hands. On the concrete scale this involves product development, and storytelling for a new kind robotics.
A wave of social robots is coming to society at large. It is being developed right now, and Jetpack wants to be part of this development, in order to push towards favorable outcomes. Social robots, by definition, need to step up robot skills in engaging, and interacting with humans on eye level. The major robotic skill required here is the ability to quickly adapt to unforeseen circumstances, as they occur all the time in the daily affairs of us humans. The science inside is that of developmental learning, which mediates the next breakthrough in robotics and intelligent machines. Because true intelligence is always about adaptivity, a fancy word for the ability to learn.
The challenge is approached by changing the definition and cultural perception of robots. By doing this, a strong lever is attained on creating impact, not only with direct action, but also indirectly by contributing to making a hard tech field like robotics more approachable and accessible to a much wider audience. The rationale behind this is: “Whether it is us or the person over there that will make a decisive contribution on the road to such radical change in society, we want to be part of it by accelerating the rate of dissemination of knowledge that we think is relevant, and thereby foster the ecosystem”.
Since the team began work on Jetpack, it has launched two robots already, flatcat and Bakiwi. flatcat is a pet-like robot that responds to touch. It has the feel of a furry animal while it does not resemble any existing animal. This is a conscious choice in the design of the robot, because resemblance raises expectations, and compared with any real animal, current robots can only fail. flatcat is like a flat caterpillar consisting of three joints. These joints are smart in that they are not only able to move, but also to register their own motion, and any resistance they meet while they are moving. With such sensor and motor capabilities combined in a single device, it is called a sensorimotor. These sensorimotors connected in a row via the flatcat chassis is all it needs to create the entire behavioral spectrum of the robot. It will always, and very sensitively so, react and respond to any force it feels across its joints, whether they are generated by gravity’s pull or by a person’s push. If you leave flatcat alone for a while, it will become bored and start to play around with itself, until you pick it up again.
Bakiwi is the fabulous DIY walking robot kit. It is a small walking robot, allowing curious minds to study the phenomenon of walking up close and hands on. It comes as a solder kit suitable for children starting from age six up to children-like adults in their eighties. The robot needs to be assembled using the PCB and electronic components which come as part of the kit, frame, legs, and batteries included. Once the electronics and the frame are assembled, Bakiwi is ready to walk, requiring zero programming, apps, or other screen based device access.
Watch Jetpack at work on their website or any of their social media channels.