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.
On Mar 9, 2022 the first prototype of the flatcat robot became a two years old. The robot is still healthy and functional. It is used on a daily basis by @x75 to control his weird synthesizers (“huh, but the sound is gloomy… 🥶”). What is happening there? It is happening that the motion of the robot is controlling the sound. Wah!
You can enjoy all of this in one single piece in the video below. If you cannot get enough, there is two more of them. Find them on Youtube and post the links in the comments. Thanks for hanging in ♥️
What I love about Flatcat is that she reacts always differently to touch and her Environment! The funny little Sounds she made and her extremly soft feeling. In my Opinion she comes pretty close to a Bio Pet but is one of a kind, and not everyone owns a Flatcat so to me she is very Special 🙂 Some don’t like how Flatcat looks like or that she is Creepy! I think it is a lot more important what is on the inside, just like with humans, where it is more Important how you are than how you look like. 😉 Please watch that Video
We have built the friendliest robot in the world, and we need your support to make more of them.
In all the craze and frenzy, take a minute just for fun and google “friendliest robot in the world”. Don’t know what you will be seeing, but for me the results are remarkable, both in gem and dire. Let’s review this. What got me to this, is that I think with flatcat we have created
1/ the friendliest robot on the planet (frop)
It might be creepy to some but it is just friendly nonetheless, no matter. To celebrate, let’s come up with an appropriate retronym for flatcat, for example
2/ flatcat, friendliest live adaptive technology cuddly auto telic
Either way I needed to research existing claims in direction of “friendliest robot”. And what I get is essentially this: various lists of “top 12” and “most advanced” hard-shell social or humanoid robots exempt the revered Paro; direct references to Blue, Pepper, and Kuri; and one IEEEspectrum article.
What is friendliness and affection without touch as a mode of communication? From all I can see, none of these robots is able to actually touch a human person. If they are, no one wants to be touched by them. So they might be “able” to touch a human but that might not feel so good for the human. flatcat communicates with people only by touch, nothing else.
What caught my eye on the other hand immediately is Gakutensoku, 學天則, which is Japanese for “learning from the laws of nature” or when taken as Chinese through deepl.com, “Learning the Rules of Heaven”. Aha 🙂
Gakutensoku was a very early robot design that considered friendliness on a fundamental level, done by biologist Makoto Nishimura, who was motivated by his shock from seeing Karel Capek’s theater play “Rossum’s Universal Robots”. Gakutensoku appears to have been Japan’s first functional robot ever, as a side effect.
The robot he wanted to build would celebrate nature and humanity, and rather than a slave, it would be a friend, and even an inspirational model, to people.
To summarize these results, friendly robots are few because somehow no one is incentivized to make them. If they are made, friendly companionship is somewhat misunderstood through the severe disconnection of mainstream engineering from simple facts of human psychology. And, there is a very early precedent, which is coming from a clearly bio-inspired thinking.
For us, friendly robots are just the answer, and we do think that friendly adaptive technology makes a difference for people now, and will do so even more down the road if they are wild and friendly. To continue this mission, we need your support and are looking for team members and funding. Give us a shout, spread the word!
Very pleased to announce that flatcat has been selected as a finalist for the Robot Design Competition during ICSR 2021 – International Conference on Social Robotics, 10-13 November 2021, Singapore, https://colips.org/conferences/icsr2021/wp/competition/
Update – List of finalists for robot design competition at International Conference on Social Robotics 2021 has been posted with flatcat on there 🐛
It was an difficult Birth! But they are fresh Born now 😉 and Hopfully curios to the World and Envoirment soon! With your help they will Constantly learn, play and can bring a lot of Joy in your Life! So lets start the first Journey with our first five Flatcats!