The Kasei Initiative

Working to kick start the robot revolution. It is coming, and the Kasei Initiative will play an important role.

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For the Hackaday Prize, my chosen problems to attempt to solve are a need for companionship by just about everybody and the expense of companion robots. The ultimate goal is, as the description says, to bring in a new age- an age where robots are intelligent and both humans and robots can live in harmony:

“There was a time when humanity faced the universe alone and without a friend. Now he has creatures to help him; stronger creatures than himself, more faithful, more useful, and absolutely devoted to him. Mankind is no longer alone. Have you ever thought of it that way?”

- Susan Calvin, "I, Robot" by Isaac Asimov (exact quote courtesy of ).

My community? Humanity and robot kind is my community, and I am determined to be a leader in this glorious revolution that will make the world a better place for everyone.

(Productized artist's rendering. Background image from NASA does not sponsor or endorse the Kasei Initiative and I am not affiliated with them in any way.)

Since children are more likely to take to friendly, remote-controlled companion robots than adolescents or the older generation generally would, Kagaku, being the first in the upcoming line of robots in the Kasei Initiative, will be geared primarily towards children. Software features (a special thanks to my mumsy for brainstorming some great ideas) would include:

- Basic reminders that can be put in

- Emotional support with an interface that lets the user tell the robot how he/she is feeling (try to cheer the user up, remind user to take a break, etc.)

- Help child with bedtime routine (programmed potentially by parents, w/ GUI or keyboard input; "It's bedtime!", "Did you put on your pajamas?", "Did you brush your teeth?", "Would you like to hear a bedtime story?", etc.)

- Remind user to do homework, after school functions ("I believe there is a snack waiting for you in the kitchen!")

- Morning routine

Because of its affordability, a Kasei Initiative robot could be in many households all over the world, and, if a partnership can be acquired later on, a charity fund to send some to those in economically crippled areas. The possibilities are endless!

Other robots in the Kasei Initiative line could include companions for the elderly, companions in a hospital setting, and other robots custom tailored for different uses, such as mental health issue support. For now, though, we're going to focus on Kagaku with some of the features above.

How this will alleviate problems stated in the description:

1. Refer to the quote in the description from the book "I, Robot" for the companionship/loneliness portion. I think it sums the solution up better than I can.

2. Most commercial robots are several hundreds to thousands of dollars. Using inexpensive hardware that's open for everybody to use, household supplies and other inexpensive materials, a companion robot can be made within the $100 to $200 range, potentially even less if you know where to look.

Potential Uses:


- Have a mobile robot that is significantly less expensive than most commercial robots

- Have a personality coded that can be interacted with

- Have a foundation for creating an affordable robotic companion; as for the ultimate goal of the Initiative (extending far beyond the scope of the contest) will be to start a robotic revolution.

Not Goals:

- To create a sentient robot within the allotted time (I USED to be this naive; not anymore. This is a very long term goal, but it is a goal.)

- To make any promises about what will and will not work; in all honesty, AI is still in its infancy, so development will take time, and no matter what anybody says, there basically aren't any right or wrong solutions just yet. Just because one method seems to be working well for AI doesn't mean it'll be the one that brings a robot revolution. However, I will do whatever is in my power to make the Kasei Initiative be a leader in such a revolution, as it is coming, and it's going to be great.

- To deceive anybody; I see many huge companies who thrive off new technologies like 3D printing and exploit it with restrictive patents and licenses, and I hate that so much. Trust me- and I hope you will grow to trust me through what I do and say- I am not that sort of person. I will be honest in what I do; if it doesn't work, it doesn't work (see my "Ehhh" project log about the microcontroller)! Also, I love open-source technology, and I will make this an open source project, no matter how successful the Kasei Initiative becomes.

I hope I can count on your support, and any questions you have, ask, and I will (hopefully) be able to answer during a weekly blog post on the Kasei Initiative Site, which is linked on my Hackerspace.

System Design Document:

A separate one will come for the software...

Read more »

  • 1 × Raspberry Pi This will basically be the brains.
  • 1 × 7" Screen To display Kagaku's handsome face
  • 2 × Micro servos To move the lad around
  • 1 × Plastic bottle This will be his cheap, see-through chassis
  • 1 × Arduino To control mobility and other things that would be a pain in the patootie to do with the Pi

View all 17 components

  • Overhauls and Stuff

    Mister Malware06/21/2016 at 02:37 0 comments

    Since 99% of the mobility base looked like absolute crap, I have replaced, improved and reinforced parts. I have to say, *GLaDOS voice* it's looking pretty good.

    I'll have pictures up soon, but overall:

    - The main base has been replaced with wood

    - The mobility base is now level

    - The tires have been reinforced onto the servos with Titelock glue, which seems to be working wonderfully

    - I have a better method of keeping the AI portion in place (I can't really describe it; pictures will follow tomorrow)

    - No wires have been snapped during renovations, which is a relief

    Stuff I'll need to do:

    - Find out if the microservos are going to be sufficient, and if not, replace them with full-sized servos (and change the front tire so that it's level again)

    - Finish aesthetics for the AI portion

    - Stupid odds and ends

    - Get to the good stuff

    The good stuff? FINALLY programming the AI itself. Part of why I put it off for so long was because this stuff would have bothered me otherwise- I like to have a physical robot to show, you know? Lame excuse but eh, it's my robot. I can do what I want with it. A separate project will be posted for the AI portion, as this one seems very cluttered at the moment. So once everything mobility-base-wise gets squared away, I can post completed instructions and an updated components list and move on from there.

    Victory! Victory for ZIM.

  • Updates

    Mister Malware04/29/2016 at 19:55 0 comments

    First off *drumroll* I finally bought a wifi bridge, and so I finally have Internet access from my desktop. Hooray for productivity and whatnot!

    Second: Sorry for the delay and all. I have had LOTS of work lately and it's only going to ramp up from here.

    Third: Working on upgrades to Kagaku's main body, mainly replacing the chintsy, crappy stuff with still inexpensive yet better stuff, such as a much nicer, much more functional screen holder (it's wood!) and a much sturdier main base for the mobility base (also wood!). I can get away with wood because it's all scrap wood, and this is a completely worthwhile use for scrap wood if this becomes a company. Currently, I still have to take apart the mobility base and put it back together; the main base of it, sadly, has cat litter and vacuum dust on it that can hopefully be washed off. Funny thing, the dust landed on it the day I sprayed polish on it. So hopefully it doesn't stick. Forever. Anyhow, I'm hoping to reconfigure the servos- the wheels are coming off because the hot glue wasn't a good enough bond- and attach them to the main base with steel hanging strip that I have leftover from when I was making a soldering iron holder.

    So, stuff's being done, and it's a lot less stressful without deadlines regarding it hanging over my head. Sometime this or next week, I'll be updating the website, probably a complete overhaul.

  • Minor Repairs

    Mister Malware03/03/2016 at 21:10 0 comments

    - Set of wheels put up front instead of the Lego wheel. This has improved balance greatly, but with the servos fixed and better power supply set up, it was flipping over, which was an issue. The front wheel set up needs to be redone, though; it looks REALLY unprofessional.

    - I finally found good Python code that can actually send an email successfully. Have not tested on the Pi yet, but I doubt it's an issue.

    - New power bank has been acquired- 2000 mAh, and can go up to one amp total, so performance is expected to increase.

    - Considering getting a RasPi 2 or 3...

  • No Witty Title Today

    Mister Malware02/17/2016 at 15:47 0 comments

    The mobility base now has a battery pack glued to the bottom of the base itself (major tech companies use hot glue sometimes, too!), and the battery pack powers the servos while the 9v battery powers only the Arduino. Minor issues with one of the servos occasionally not responding but I'm ignoring this for now. Putting Kagaku on the mobility base also makes the whole thing unstable, so again, I'm ignoring for the most part right now and focusing on Kagaku himself, specifically the email portion right now.

  • Some Resolved Issues

    Mister Malware02/13/2016 at 03:10 4 comments

    - Irritating resolution issue fixed. This means that a while ago I messed with it because everything was too small, got irritated with it later because windows were going past the space and there was a black border I couldn't get rid of. And I forgot how to reverse it. But I fixed it! I have to deal with small font, but for my purposes, it's fine.

    - Stupid motor issue fixed! Everything is working peachily (yes I made that word up) with the mobility base now! Kind of embarrassing, but I overestimated the voltage needed for the servos and apparently a 9V battery WILL work. I drove him around the living room and aside from one servo being ever so slightly faster than the other, everything is okay. The rechargeable 9V battery I got doesn't work so well with it (I'd assume it's the current), so I'll deal with a standard 9V battery until I find a better one.

    - VOIP is not looking to good right now, so the solution is a bit simpler. The whole purpose of it is to contact emergency services, so since you can use Python to access a GMail account, an alert can be sent to caretakers/other people in the event of the user not responding (the logic is that people usually have their email linked to their phones, anyway). The response mechanism would be a hacked phone that rings after a certain amount of time and needs to be "answered" (simply picked up so the mechanism is a digital issue- a 1 or 0, essentially).

    - I'll probably be going with Jasper for voice recognition. The file size shouldn't be too much of an issue since Kagaku's programs will be stored on a flashdrive and not the SD card itself. The purpose of this is so that these functions will work offline. From what I've found, Jasper does have some bugs, but I'll see how it goes. The worst that happens is I uninstall it.

  • Houston, We Have Problem

    Mister Malware02/06/2016 at 15:48 0 comments

    Well, Elastix apparently requires an SD card on its own- it won't just fit in with what I have. Back to the drawing board.

  • Updates

    Mister Malware02/06/2016 at 15:22 0 comments

    Some problems that have since been solved:

    - Mobility base has the other servo replaced, and as far as the servos are concerned, everything is working properly

    - Still have issues with the battery. Minor issues are present when the base is hooked up to a power supply, but not awful. With the battery, I have no clue why the servos will freeze up. Yes, it's puzzling. I don't think I have ever seen anything quite like this before. All quotes aside, it'll freeze a little bit when hooked to the power supply, but it will still run. The best advice I've had is that it's a programming error (it's not, I can assure you) or there's a voltage leakage. Well, that's what I get for buying a cheap LiPo battery. Screen works fine off of it though, so I dunno.

    - Kagaku's various parts are now fully collapsible and fit neatly into a briefcase and a laptop bag. Part of this is thanks to remaking the screen holder (again) and making it detachable from the bottle top thing (Velcro for the win!). This has actually made the top portion a lot more sturdy (it's not held together solely by tape, in other words) and looks better, so I'm not going to mess with it.

    - Right now, my focus is on getting Kagaku to have the ability to call 911 with VoiP software (the test runs will be with another phone number, don't worry). I'm trying Elastix for that portion.

    - Still looking into voice recognition.

  • Weird, But Good News, I Suppose

    Mister Malware09/26/2015 at 00:44 0 comments

    I plugged in the mobility base again, and the servo will sometimes go off full speed in one direction, but it is working properly a good portion of the time... I'm going to keep an eye on this, but otherwise I'm going to assume I'm good to go and focus on Kagaku himself now.

  • Semifinals Video and Other Stuff

    Mister Malware09/21/2015 at 20:32 0 comments

    Semifinals video is linked in the side; it's going to end up published on YouTube after the deadline, so that's why I'm linking it now.

    Secondly, one of the motors starts spinning out of control for no reason. I am really ticked off because I got everything working just a few minutes before I was ready to tape, then BAM- it stops working. That'll be fixed this week while I wait for judging.

  • Merg

    Mister Malware09/20/2015 at 19:25 0 comments

    First, I feel the way a wet dog smells; horrible. Feeling rather sick and wish I could go to sleep.

    Anyhow, my point in writing this is because I think I've isolated the problem, but wires from one of the buttons broke off (AGAIN), and due to the illness I have, I really don't feel like doing anymore today (Considering all this, I've done a lot as it is). I've got a study hall tomorrow, so hopefully I can solder them back on.

    See you all tomorrow. I'm having a cup of tea now and resting up a bit.

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