Not Your Kid’s Robot: Lenovo-Backed Vincross Offers Makers a Mature Robotics Building Kit

Credit: VincrossCredit: VincrossIf you haven’t noticed, robots are no longer a hope for the future. They’re not just a real technology used in businesses and factories across the world, either. There are various consumer robots for sale, from bots that fight to machines that clean and kits teaching kids STEM.

But when it comes to building your own robot, tech enthusiasts and talented makers want a lot of functionality, customization options and programming that goes beyond the drag-and-drop interfaces used to teach children. Lenovo-backed robotics vendor Vincross is looking to appeal to that audience with its MIND Kit, a robotics development kit the company launched on Kickstarter today.

Available for pre-order now, the kit includes three hardware modules, a CPU, servo controller and battery, for $199. Backers can also opt for the CPU module only for $99.

That CPU is an ARM Cortex-A53, a quad-core processor running at a clock speed of 1.2GHz. Vincross says it’s capable of “complex AI computations,” including computer vision AI and simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM). You’ll also be able to hack MIND kit through the 54 programmable pins and 6 USB Type-C ports built into the CPU module--that's better connectivity than most PCs.

Credit: VincrossCredit: VincrossThe servo controller can handle up to 20 servo motors at the same time, while the Lithium-ion battery fuels those servo motors and fancy AI algorithms with 480 watts.

Robots made from the MIND Kit will use MIND OS 2.0, an operating software Vincross created just for robotics. Through its SDK, the San Francisco-based company says developers will be able to program applications and movements, even if they didn’t know much about robotics development beforehand. If you’re new to programming, you may take comfort in knowing Vincross has an online forum, where members can discuss projects and questions around MIND OS 2.0.

Makers will have various customization opportunities through plug-and-play modules, including mountable sensors, speakers and mic arrays. There’s also a LIDAR (light detection and ranging) module for using pulsed laser light to measure the distance to a particular point, and wheeled modules, including one with a caterpillar track so your robot can travel bumpy landscapes:

  • CPU, servo controller, battery, plus LIDAR, Rover Base (modular wheel attachment) and Tank Base (modular caterpillar wheel attachment): $399
  • CPU, servo controller, battery, plus LIDAR, Rover Base, Tank Base, speaker array and microphone array: $799

Depending on the campaign's success, a robotic arm add-on capable of moving across four axes may also be made available. 

Credit: VincrossCredit: VincrossVincross has already given some MIND Kits to beta testers and said they’ve been turned into a voice-controlled salt-and-pepper passer (above), baby feeder and robo-vacuum.

Vincross expects the robotics kit including the CPU, servo controller and battery hardware modules to retail for $150 after funding.

Don’t have a lot of faith in Kickstarter projects? Don’t count Vincross out yet. The company has already successfully launched insect-like robot Hexa (which is also quite reminiscent of the Tachikoma from Ghost in the Shell). And today it announced $10 million in Series A+ funding led by Lenovo. In 2016, the company raised $6 million in Series A funding, led by GGV Capital.