April 19, 2016      

ZeroUI, one of our favorite robotics startups from CES 2016, has launched its Ziro gesture-controlled robotics kit on Indiegogo. At press time, ZeroUI had already raised $26,299 of its $30,000 goal.

Ziro is a modular robotics kit, meaning you can basically build anything that you want. Ziro is made up of individual mechanized motors that are controlled by a smart glove that supports seven actions for the hand. Sensors in the smart glove communicate with wireless motorized modules that enables users to direct the robots with the lift of a finger or flick of a wrist. The hand gestures are programmed using an Android or iOS app.

Ziro offers about seven hours of battery life from the modules and about four hours from the smart glove. The box your kit comes in also doubles as a charging station.

Ziro is available in two kits: a $149 Trike starter kit that includes the smart glove controller and two modules or the $249 Rover Deluxe kit, with the glove and four modules plus a rotating smartphone mount. ZeroUI says the Ziro kits will ship in January 2017, but as with any crowdfunding project, changes can happen.

Ziro was developed in research led by Karthik Ramani, the Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering and co-founder and chief scientist of ZeroUI, with locations at the Purdue Research Park and in San Jose, California.

Ziro Rover
by ZeroUI
on Sketchfab

The robots can also use Velcro strips to attach modules to any number of everyday materials and objects such as cardboard, metal cans and foam board, a departure from conventional kits. “Anytime you have mostly prefabricated building blocks that come together in a certain number of combinations you are limited in what you can do, and research shows you are not going to attract the interest of girls with the vast majority of these kits,” Ramani said. “The thing about Ziro that is more open is that you can use virtually any material and you are not limited to these prefabricated pieces.”

As you can probably decipher from the name, “ZeroUI” is all about creating a natural user interface and breaking down certain barriers associated with learning about robots. Ziro is the company’s first application of its gesture-based Natural User Interface (NUI). ZeroUI initially envisioned Ziro as a way to get kids interested in robots, but the company now sees makers as being a viable option as well.