A robotic toy car first developed as a class project is now the basis of a business startup by a group of Arizona State University engineering students. They’re designing Cosmo – the car’s name – as a tool for teaching pre-school-age children basic math and spelling through games programmed into the robot’s software.
Called Infinibotics, the team includes computer systems students Edward Andert, Roger Dolan, Shang Wang, Bryce Holton and Austin Deveny. Their faculty adviser is Aviral Shrivastava, is an associate professor.
Infinibotics stems from an idea Shrivastava came up with two years ago to teach students in one of his design courses to apply basic computer systems engineering design principles to producing a robotic toy car.
Using image-processing algorithms, the students were first instructed to follow a person walking so they could understand the mechanicqs of what they wanted to enable the vehicle to do.
Students in the first class to undertake the project assembled the necessary components to make the car work.
Another class developed the computer software for detection and tracking, enabling the car to follow behind someone as they walked. Eventually, the remote-controlled vehicle could be directed to outmaneuver darts shot from a toy turret.
The students found that children loved the toy and a father also asked if he could buy the toy vehicle for his son.
When Shrivastava’s five-year-old daughter, Lehka, played with the toy, she asked her father if the car could be made to stop when she told it to and if it could play spelling games with her. Her questions and feedback from others sparked a new phase of the project – developing the robot car as an educational toy for children.
The students have already altered the robot’s software to enable it to follow voice commands such as “Cosmo, follow” and “Cosmo, stop.”
The Infinibotics team that formed to turn the project into a product is designing the next Cosmo prototype to provide more interactive features.
Ideas include enabling the robot toy to play hide-and-seek and treasure-hunt games that present simple math and spelling challenges.