February 24, 2017
‘Astro Boy’ DIY Robot Kits: ‘My First ATOM Kit’ Smart Robot Build Subscription

Astro Boy, a lovable robotic child with amazing features from the popular series of the same name, can soon be assembled at home using "My First ATOM" DIY robotics kit that can be purchased as a weekly subscription service.

Hoping to tap into the "Big Kid" market, multiple big Japanese companies are collaborating to introduce a Do It Yourself (DIY) robotics kit that, when finished, offers a fully-functioning Astro Boy robot. The Artificial Intelligence driven robot won't be an ordinary hobby robot but will be able to move with help of advanced robotic components, recognize people, and interact with them as well.

Japanese corporations Kodansha, Tezuka Productions, NTT DoCoMo, VAIO, and Fujisoft have decided to combine their expertise and intellectual properties for the "ATOM Project." The project is essentially a weekly subscription service which will allow purchasers to build their own personal communications robot based on the titular character from Osamu Tezuka's classic manga and TV anime, Astro Boy (known as Tetsuwan Atom in Japan), reported Crunchyroll.

The subscription will include "My First ATOM" kit. The kit consists of 70 individual pieces. It is not clear how the distribution of the pieces will be managed or arranged. However, the subscription starts in April and is supposed to go on until next year's September. In other words, between in April 2017 and September 2018, the complete "My First ATOM" kit should reach the subscribers. Hence it is quite likely that the subscription service could mail pieces of the DIY robotics kit, and subscribers will have to receive all the mail-ins to ensure they have the complete kit.

The kit, comprising of 70 pieces, when fully assembled, will allow the subscribers of "My First ATOM" kit to build an Atom/Astro Boy communications robot. Not meant for mere hobbyists, the robot features some very advanced components. According to the creators, the robot will have "eyes" that will be able to recognize the user, a microphone to listen to vocal commands and interactive instructions, a set of speakers that will act as a mouthpiece to communicate back, and small LCD display.

Although the developers of the Astro Boy robot haven't been forthcoming about the software they have embedded within it, the robot is expected to feature advanced facial recognition protocols owing to a special camera. For the Astro Boy robot to move, the creators have offered multiple sets of servomotors as well. These motors are expected to offer a wide range of movement as well as motion to the robot. Interestingly, the designers of the DIY robot have ensured that assembly isn't a hassle. In fact, the promoters promise that the entire robot can be constructed rather quickly and that too without needing any special tools apart from a single screwdriver.

The finished DIY Astro Boy robot will stand 44 centimeters (17.3 inches) tall. At mere 1.4 kilograms (3.1 pounds), the robot isn't heavy and can be maneuvered easily. The creators of the project haven't spared any details and ensured that the robot will truly sound like Astro Boy. To ensure a sense of familiarity, the robot's voice has been provided by Makoto Tsumura. The talented vocal artist voiced Atom/Astro in the 2003 Astro Boy TV anime.

All this technology, unfortunately, doesn't come cheap. Collecting all of the pieces of the "My First ATOM" kit is mandatory if the buyer wishes to have a fully functioning unit. The complete kit costs 185,000 Yen in total, which in American dollars is worth over $1,630.

Although the robot can be assembled fairly easily, those who merely want an advanced robotic toy to play with can order a pre-assembled version. The built robot is being offered at a rather steep price of 212,900 Yen ($1,880 U.S.). However, those who want the fully assembled version will have to wait until September 2018. Besides the Astro Boy robot, buyers will also receive bonus materials such a special charger chair, art-books, etc.

Although the price may appear steep, it is quite likely that the orders might fill up soon, Moreover, this special edition run of pre-assembled robots is limited to just 1000 units. Hence those who are interested in a smart, AI driven Astro Boy DIY robot, will have to hurry.

[Featured Image by Osamu Tezuka/Astro Boy]