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Featured Tech Kickstarter: MOSS – The Dynamic Robot Construction Kit

MOSS – The Dynamic Robot Construction Kit

Project by

Modular Robotics

Boulder, CO

Build your own robots with MOSS! Simple, fun, magnetic robot construction kits. No coding, no wires, oodles of configurations!

 

What is MOSS?

MOSS is a brand new robot construction system from Modular Robotics. It was designed, prototyped and engineered over the last two and a half years. Building with MOSS is incredibly fun and easy thanks to an intuitive, magnetic construction system.

With MOSS there is no need for coding or wiring your construction. The power and data are sent through an elegant single button contact, while the ground passes through the steel spheres.

Control your creations with bluetooth by pairing with a smartphone or tablet.

Control your creations with bluetooth by pairing with a smartphone or tablet.

MOSS uses over-molded neodymium, “rare earth,” magnets and carbon steel ball bearings to build a wide variety of constructions. The tactile click of building with MOSS is enough to keep you entertained for hours.

With just one sphere you make a ball joint. With two spheres you make a hinge, and with three or four you create a rigid structure.

With just one sphere you make a ball joint. With two spheres you make a hinge, and with three or four you create a rigid structure.
Your MOSS creations are powered with a rechargeable lithium polymer battery. Simply plug in with the included Micro-USB cable to recharge.

Your MOSS creations are powered with a rechargeable lithium polymer battery. Simply plug in with the included Micro-USB cable to recharge.

How does MOSS work?

It’s easy to snap MOSS modules together to make a static structure, but to make things move and light up, you’ll need to understand the color coding system for the individual faces. Keep in mind that production MOSS kits will be different colors from the versions shown here. We’ll use these versions for this example, though, since we’re surrounded by the pretty colors.

Yellow faces conduct power. If you look at the BATTERY module, you’ll see that it has only yellow faces; this module’s main purpose is to supply power to other modules. To power up a MOSS module like a SPIN, for instance, you’ll need to connect one of its yellow faces directly or indirectly to one of the yellow faces on a BATTERY module. Blue and green faces conduct data: blue is data output and green is input. If you want a DISTANCE sensor to control the speed of a SPIN, for instance, you’ll need to connect the DISTANCE’s blue data out to the SPIN’s green data input. Get it? There’s only one more face, the pink passthrough face, which can pass any signal, either power or data. If your BATTERY is a few modules away from something you need to power, use the pink faces on a FLEXIBLE module (or a few single cubes in series) to transfer the power.

What is included?

MOSS Design Process

MOSS was created over 2.5 years and has been through numerous stages of development.

MOSS was created over 2.5 years and has been through numerous stages of development.

Work on MOSS began in 2010 as a research project funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the ASEE. Since then, we’ve been working to turn MOSS from a concept to a production ready robotics kit.

MOSS started with sketches, ideas, and thousands of prototypes. The original concept used 3D printed frames, laser cut faces, copper connections and hand strung wire. Over thousands and thousands of hours in development, the various product concepts became the prototypes you see now.

Over that time, while we were producing and selling Cubelets, we learned all about injection molding, over-molding magnets, metal stamping, and the other mass-production manufacturing processes needed to make MOSS on a commercial scale. One big challenge was getting enough magnetic holding force between blocks so people could build large constructions. We solved this with custom rare-earth magnets that have a concave face for maximum contact with the steel spheres.

The plastic shells for MOSS were designed to snap together with appropriate draft angles for injection molding. The magnets were over-molded into the plastic shells in order to eliminate any chance of them coming out. Now that we’ve got the designs dialed, we’re excited to share our work with you.

MOSS Production Plan

The prototypes you see in the video represent “T2” plastics construction. We are tweaking the last few details before we order production ready plastics from our suppliers. Other parts like the microcontrollers and circuit boards are already on order. We expect Modular Robotics will receive final MOSS production ready components in mid-December 2013. Our supply chain manager has toured our plastics and battery suppliers and verified that everything is proceeding according to plan. Production and assembly are scheduled to start near the holidays, continuing through January and beyond!

All MOSS modules will be hand assembled in our robot factory in Boulder, CO.  It’s uncommon to build toys or consumer electronics in the USA, let alone in Boulder.  But fundamentally, we believe that by making our robots ourselves is the right thing to do.  It’s fun, too, especially since we get to build robots to help us build robots. Here’s how we assemble circuit boards. Just like our previous product, Cubelets, we’re building everything ourselves so that we can ensure high quality and adapt quickly to changing conditions. Every assembly step of every MOSS module will be tested as it progresses through our factory

Orders for each kit type will be fulfilled on a first come, first served basis. So the sooner you support our campaign, the sooner you can start playing with MOSS! We are going to start shipping kits as soon as we have modules, packaging and instruction booklets ready.

One note on color... The robots shown here are all prototypes. Production MOSS will have better tolerance, fit, and finish. But we haven’t chosen the colors yet! We may pick a color scheme that you hate, which is a risk. Currently we really like this one, but it’s not final.

Risks and challenges

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

 

We have our own factory in Boulder, CO where we’ve been building Cubelets for a couple of years. We’re starting to get really good at building robots, but unforeseen circumstances can always cause delays. We’ve purchased parts that were destroyed at customs (http://www.modrobotics.com/blog/…) and that arrived with defects (http://www.modrobotics.com/blog/…). Since then, though, we’ve put lots more quality control processes in place and tightened up our supply chain.

We haven’t sent MOSS kits to a nationally recognized testing lab for safety testing yet, and unanticipated problems may cause delays. But we know the toy safety standards in and out (http://www.modrobotics.com/blog/…) and have designed everything so that we’re confident we’ll easily pass ASTM, FCC, RoHS, and CE certification.

There is no risk that we won’t produce MOSS. We’re a forty person company, we have money in the bank, and we’ve already made (and paid for) the tooling to make all of the different parts. We know how to work with vendors, produce high quality toys, and fulfill orders.


By G+ Author: Jacquelyn Tanner.

Jacquelyn Tanner

Jacquelyn Tanner

author
Long time contributor and blogger for TopMobileTrends.com! American living in London and driving the UK crazy. Add me on G+!
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