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First Completely Open-source Humanoid Robot Developed In France


World's first completely open-source, 3D printed, humanoid robot has been developed in France.

Named Poppy, a robot that anybody can build and program, was the brainchild of the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (Inria).

Presented to the French president in June, Poppy is now open to everyone, the European Commission announced Tuesday.

Inria's FLOWERS team creates computer and robotic models as tools for understanding developmental processes in humans. The team of developers aims to make it part of vocational training in schools, giving students the opportunity to experiment.

Dr Pierre-Yves Oudeyer, the Research Director at Inria, and head of the Inria and Ensta-ParisTech FLOWERS team, says "Very little has been done to explore the benefits of 3D printing and its interaction with computer science in classrooms. With our Poppy platform, we are now offering schools and teachers a way to cultivate the creativity of students studying in areas such as mechanics, computer science, electronics and 3D printing".

Poppy's body is 3D printed and its behavior controlled by freely available software, meaning users can design body parts quickly and easily, and program their robot's behavior themselves. Dr Oudeyer clarifies: "Both hardware and software are open source. There is not one single Poppy humanoid robot but as many as there are users. This makes it very attractive as it has grown from a purely technological tool to a real social platform".

To make Poppy widely accessible, the team tried to keep the cost as low as possible. The overall materials needed to build your own Poppy robot -- including motors, electronics and 3D printed parts -- costs around EUR7,500 ($10,250), it is estimated.

Poppy is now also compatible with the Arduino platform, which allows interface with other electronic devices, including smart clothing, lights, sensors and musical instruments.

Dr Oudeyer plans to extend use of this technology beyond research labs, to the educational sector in particular. Commenting on the Poppy initiative, EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "This is a great offshoot of an ERC project: a low-cost platform that could foster a more interactive and inspiring learning environment, allowing students to connect with research and design."

The Poppy platform has come about due to the European Research Council-funded "Explorers" project, under which Dr Oudeyer was able to develop problem-solving and critical thinking ability in robotics. He hopes students of computer science, coding and design will be able to train using Poppy and perhaps, later, find a job in the robotics sector.

Poppy was already used in other fields. In an ongoing artist residence program entitled "Etres et Numériques", Dr Oudeyer's team worked with a dancer and a visual artist to explore the emotions and perceptions of body gestures and movements using the robot. They expect to extend these experiments to other artistic performances.

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