Edge of Innovation

Is this Ohbot 2 the first humanoid robot in space?

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

Remember Ohbot 2, the programmable robotic head designed for kids? If you don’t, it’s a kit robot for primary children that connects to a computer. Using simple scripting programs, it can be directed to talk, move its head, smile and frown. Its creators — roboticist Mat Walker and ICT teacher Dan Warner — have just sent one to the edge of space.

Read: Meet Ohbot2: A programmable robotic head designed for kids

Launched by helium balloon from Roysia Middle School in Royston, Hertfordshire, the astrOhbot ‘Peaky’ soared to a height of over 30km before parachuting back down to Earth. Its mission? To celebrate the release of Ohbot 2.1 and to showcase its talky talents by delivering special messages addressed to ‘humans of Earth’, written by children.

You can watch the launch below.

To track the the Ohbot on its journey into the stratosphere, Dan Warner added sensors to Ohbot to measure height, temperature, location and velocity.

He also added radio communication as part of the flight kit. This allowed the team to feed the data back to the ground in real time, along with the messages that Ohbot would be reciting when it passed the 28km mark. Finally, a GoPro video camera was added to record the flight.

All this extra technology required extra processing power and so the Ohbot team turned to an Intel Compute Stick with an Atom processor. “It turned out to be the perfect solution as we were so weight restricted,” said Mat Walker. “The flight kit ran well with the Intel stick.”

Ohbot goes into space with Intel Compute Stick
Ohbot’s flight kit was powered by an Intel Compute Stick with an m3 processor inside.

Not only that, but the electronics needed to function over a four hour flight time and in nearspace temperatures below -40C.

The Ohbot 2.1 robot head is available in kit form for £139 (ex VAT) or ready assembled for £179 ex VAT. Each bot features seven motors to provide a range of realistic movement, which can be programmed using a visual, Scratch-style coding language running on a Windows PC.

As well as its movable head, eyes and lips, Ohbot features built-in text-to-speech technology and a camera for face recognition, which can be programmed to react when it sees a child. Ohbot’s microcontroller board also supports additional sensors for touch, tilt and light.

Since the original Ohbot launched in March 2015, Mat and Dan have delivered hundreds of robots to children, teachers, academics and enthusiasts across the world. You can learn more about Ohbot and buy one at ohbot.co.uk.

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