Bionics is still in its infancy, and 3D printing has done its part to help pave the way by producing bionic hands, eyes, and more. But not all bionics will be directly attached to a person. Italian Youbionic has joined forces with the well-known robotics company Boston Dynamics to meld a pair of bionic arms with the adorable (or terrifying depending on your perspective) SpotMini.
Youbionic began working on its bionic prosthetic hand in 2014. The company recently released the STL files for their first 3D printable arm and this Humanoid One project is an extension of developing the same architecture. After completing the arm, Youbionic founder Federico Ciccarese moved to the mobility side of the equation as he wants the arms available for use in offices, factories, and homes. “Here I was reminded of the fantastic Boston Dynamic SpotMini that is able to move very well in the environment but has a very limited capacity to manipulate objects due to its single beak,” Federico told 3Ders. “I thought this is a perfect fusion!”
Two arms are certainly better than one, and this will be an informative project because getting the extra weight distributed and balanced correctly will take some work. The four-legged SpotMini robot is a 25kg robot with 17 joints and the strength to carry a 14kg payload. It is capable of climbing stairs as well as handling objects. SpotMini can already open doors with one arm; imagine the cocktails it’ll be able to make with two hands (plus a bunch of actually productive tasks like assembly and testing of components). Expect to see real pictures and videos next year as Federico reports “I started a collaboration with Actuonix that will provide me with all the actuators I need to assemble Youbionic One. I will do this in 2019 along with the continuation of the whole body.”His aim is to create assistive devices that interface with their users to increase productivity and fulfillment, and beyond. “The main mission of Youbionic is to develop robotic devices that can be an alter ego of its owner, designed to be controlled as if we were exactly there, that they can get us where we can not get, that they can make us walk on Martian soil, visit planets, navigate space.”
The Mars rovers are evidence that stellar exploration will be heavily dependent upon robotics and bionics, and mobile machines with remotely-controllable arms and limbs will be joining the public in the next few years. The rapid prototyping and complex geometries enabled by 3D printing are helping robotics developers keep to that timeline. One of the big selling points of SpotMini is how non-threatening it is, so whether or not the engineering problems are solved, the success of Centaur Spot may depend on how much the designers can dial up the cuteness and dial back the menacing murderbot look.