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mercredi 30 décembre 2015

How this French sculptor crowdsourced his 3D-printed, life-size InMoov robot

Gael Langevin and his 3-D printed robot.

TOULOUSE, France — If you want to understand just how quickly the robot revolution may be coming and how widespread it may be, it’s worth meeting Gael Langevin.

The French sculptor and designer has, by his own admission, almost zero technical background. He has spent most of his career creating branding campaigns for big companies. And yet, despite this lack of training and preparation, Langevin has become a central figure in the open-source robotic world.

Tapping into the power of crowdsourcing, the accessibility of 3D printing, and sharing his designs freely, Langevin has constructed a life-size robot as well as clear instructions for anyone to build their own. The result is a product as well as a movement.

“It’s like a sculpture that I can share with everyone,” he said. “I wanted this to be open source from the beginning. It’s like a gift that I can keep giving.”

I met Langevin recently when he was in Toulouse for the Futurapolis conference. He was giving demos as well as speaking about the future of robotics.

Though he still works full-time on his branding business, he’s also formed a company around his robotics work called InMoov. As part of the development, he created a specialized circuit board for robotics with the help of some Dutch engineers which he hopes to sell in order to finance his own continued work on the robot.

It’s hard to measure the exact impact of Langevin’s project. But it’s come far enough that it has allowed a 15-year-old in Greece to make his own version of Langevin’s work. And it’s created a massive community around the project who are problem-solving and improving the work even as they make their own versions. Make magazine featured many of these projects this year.

Not bad for a guy who says he has no idea what Arduino was when he launched the project in 2012.

At the time, a French car company asked Langevin to design a prosthetic hand that had a future-looking quality. In the course of researching the project, Langevin learned how to 3D print the material to make it. He then uploaded his design to Thingiverse, an online community of people who are designs for physical objects.

The response was strong, as other Thingiverse members started printing their own versions, and contributing their own modifications. That inspired Langevin to take his own project further and build an entire robot.

The version he brought to Toulouse is nearly complete from the waist up. Speaking into a microphone, Langevin can give basic directions and ask simple questions that prompt various vocal responses and graceful gestures. Most of these are enabled using bits of code he borrowed from various code libraries online.

Currently, he’s trying to solve the problem of building legs, an enormously complex and potentially expensive phase. He’s very focused on keeping the costs low so that the project remains accessible. So figuring out how to make the robot walk means creatively engineering a solution around low-cost parts.

To get a better idea of how the robot feels, check out InMoov’s official video here:

Here’s my video from Futurapolis, though it’s a bid hard to hear with the crowd noise:












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