mimicArm Teaches Programming and Robotics with Haptic Feedback

New robotics education system uses haptic feedback to teach programming and robotic position and gripping.

Brett Pepitone is a mechanical engineer who wants to help everyone get into robotics and programming. Working with his team/family at MimicEducationalRobots he’s developed different projects to teach principles of coding and robotics. His current project is the mimicArm, an AI robot meant to interact with humans while it teaches.

Pepitone calls the mimicArm a cobot – collaborative robot, designed to ease from easy programming steps into more advanced concepts. The first mode is manual and uses the concept called posi-feel, a patent pending method of giving the user haptic feedback to “feel what the robot feels.” The reactive forces applied to the robot gripper are transmitted to the user using a scissor like interface on a second robot. This gives the user the ability to feel the size and flex of a material. The robot can grab items without knowing their size instead of a servo system that requires exact dimensional inputs. There’s a routine called didigetit? that is demonstrated on the company’s website, showing the robot decide whether or not a block is actually inside the robot’s grip.

The posi-feel system and the mimicking portion of the robot are what Pepitone feels will set this robot apart from the small army of “systems designed to teach programming and robotics.” The system is programmed using a mimicDuino controller based on the Arduino platform and programmed with mimicBlock software (beta download is available now) that looks similar to Scratch’s graphic building block approach. In addition to the programming of movements additional components can be purchased to use a big red button input, incorporate an infrared distance sensor, or add a sketch attachment to hold a pencil.  

Visually I’m always attracted to clear plastic machine design and the way that gears and fasteners look when connecting and driving the robots. mimicArm looks like a good addition to the crowded field of robotic education systems but the haptic feedback programming gives it a definite advantage. The crowdfunding campaign has already met its goals and will end on May 29 with units currently scheduled to ship in July 2018.