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May 24, 2018      

OhmniLabs Inc. today announced an open development kit for telepresence robotics to enable faster, easier, and less expensive development of customized robotic applications that sit on top of telepresence systems.

The kit, named DevKit, is based on the company’s Ohmni telepresence robot. It lets developers plug in USB devices and other custom hardware, including Arduino-based electronics, servos, and lights.

The company also launched an in-call Ohmni application programming interface (API) to remotely control the devices, with no networking, signaling, or cloud development required. The kit will start at $2,500, with modules and accessories being added over the coming months, the company said.

OhmniLabs DevKit

An Ohmni robot is seen here with customized arms, built with the company’s new DevKit. Credit: OhmniLabs

The DevKit includes the Ohmni Dev Edition, with Robot Operating System (ROS) developer libraries and modules preinstalled; a 3D-printed mounting bracket kit; and an Arduino-based flashlight sample module and reference design.

It also includes an Arduino power and serial adapter kit, as well as Arduino libraries and reference code for packet bus.

OhmniLabs extensions for more value

Jared Go, co-founder and chief technology officer of OhmniLabs, said the DevKit was driven by feedback from partners and customers.

“We found that the common thing everyone would ask is if they could add some extension to the robot that would make it fit their particular use case,” he said.

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He gave some examples of changes that were requested, including:

  • Adding a tray or basket so the root could carry items.
  • Adding an LED or night vision so the robot could drive at night.
  • Adding medical sensors, such as a USB stethoscope.
  • Adding a pet treat dispenser to let the robot play with pets when their owners were away.
  • Adding a plant watering attachment and sensors for an application where a robot could water or manage a greenhouse.
  • Adding depth cameras or lidar in order to add autonomy.

“The most common thing we hear is that people don’t want to reinvent the entire robot and telepresence stack just to do this,” Go said. “We wanted to maximize freedom for developers and companies. There’s no reason for anyone to reinvent this just to experiment with and pursue their own telepresence-based robotics application.”

A module powering two LED strips is an example of how the DevKit can customize a robot. Credit: OhmniLabs

The company said other developers and researchers have customized parts of the Ohmni robots, including Toppan in Japan with its virtual presence work.

Go said developers are free to customize and resell the robots, or they can consult with OhmniLabs to help make even more custom changes.

The Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center at the University of Southern California is using a pre-release version of the OhmniLabs development kit. It’s using the kit to augment the interactivity of telepresence calls with customized hardware and software, said Prof. Maja Mataric, founding director of the USC center.

“OhmniLabs’ open platform allows us to conduct specialized telepresence research at a lower cost than competing systems,” Mataric said.

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