Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Programmers looking to crowdfund ‘Droidles’ project

by Jennifer Pittman
Santa Cruz Sentinel

(photo credit: Shmuel Thaler, Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Aromas engineer has big plans for mini robots. If funded, Droidles will be a resource for the Digital NEST, a newly created technology center for Watsonville youth.

Engineer Jay Hurley envisions a legion of palm-sized programmable robots buzzing around our houses, chirping greetings, learning new tricks from each other and teaching the next generation of us to program new antics.

“They’re designed to be able to express themselves, to learn, to play and to evolve,” said Hurley, who is in the midst of a $50,000 crowdfunding campaign to create his team of mini robots known as “Droidles.”

As an open source technology project that uses Bluetooth radio communication as well as smartphone connections to the Internet cloud, Droidles can talk to each other, sort of. They not only recognize other Droidles that they’ve met before, they each have the ability to respond to each other and they can have their own website that they post to automatically so they learn from each other.

They “have social lives of their own,” Hurley said.

Similar to the more mundane Pet Rock of the 1970s or more advanced Zhu Zhu Pets of the last decade, Droidles are cute, but these little two-wheeled, circular robots made of hard plastic are also socially networked. If they capture the imagination of funders, we could see an open source platform for budding programmers to learn about robotics as well as the potential for research data on artificial intelligence and swarm intelligence.

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