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Say Hello To Jimmy, Intel's Fully-Customizable, 3D-Printed Robot

How do you feel about owning your very own, personal robot? How about if you were able to customize everything about that robot, from how it looked to how it 'thought'? If you're anything like me, that's a pretty appealing idea, no? I'd happily shell out a bit of cash for the opportunity - and Intel's set to deliver it.

The hardware manufacturer announced this week that it plans to bring Jimmy - its fully customizable, 3-D printable robotic construction kit - to market by the end of the year. The designs for the robot will be freely available online, meaning anyone with a 3-D printer can access, generate, and assemble the basic components. The kit itself includes everything that can't be printed - circuitry, motors, processors; you get the idea. 

When fully constructed, the consumer version of "Jimmy" will run on the Intel Edison Chip.Together with all the other components, this'll run you at around $1,600 (not including the cost of the printing materials). A more powerful research version is also available, but it's probably out of the price range of most consumers - equipped with an Intel Core i5, it'll cost somewhere around $16,000. Like I said, a bit of a wallet-breaker. 

The best part about Jimmy is that the software running the robot is completely open-source. By now, I'm certain you all know full well what that means - developers and geeks alike can code and share their own apps for the robot, allowing users to customize their robots however they see fit.

"I wanted to design a robot that owners could personalize for their own purposes, making robotics accessible and fun," explained Intel's Brian David Johnson at a demonstration. Johnson's robot in particular was capable of dancing, walking, talking, and even live-tweeting. "Other functions could include singing along with users, translating languages, or even delivering food and drink," he added.

"It's like a smartphone with legs. Your robot will be completely different from mine; you customize it and program the artificial intelligence, not by having a PhD in robotics, but by downloading apps." 

Once Jimmy's had a bit of time to settle in to the consumer market, Intel plans to set up an app marketplace for Jimmy, which will include a number of physical designs and robot kits produced with various partners. All of this will be located at 21stCenturyRobot.com. Eventually, they expect that - with the resources they've provided - consumers should be able to create their own customized robots for less than $1,000. 

"The grand vision is to lower the banner of entry to robotics," explained Johnson. 

If ever there was evidence that 3-D printing has changed the world, this is it.  The barrier for entry into a whole array of fields - robotics among them - has never been lower, and with the proliferation of inexpensive printing technology, I expect that in the future it won't be all that uncommon for people to print pretty much everything except food.

But that's neither here nor there. We're here to talk about robots - and Intel's efforts to ensure that everyone can have a bot of their own. 

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