Purdue-Developed Robotics Toy Becomes CES Standout

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Ziro is expected to be on the market later this month. Ziro is expected to be on the market later this month.
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A robotic toy kit invented by a Purdue University professor captured awards at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and is now just days away from commercialization. Ziro is the brainchild of Purdue Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering Karthik Ramani. Dubbed the largest consumer electronics event in the world, CES 2016 named the toy one of three "Best Maker-Friendly Technology" awards. Last year, Inside INdiana Business Reporter Kylie Veleta was first to report on the technology and its learning aspects.

A promotional video of the now updated toy has generated more than 37,000 views on Facebook.

Ramani appeared on Inside Indiana Business Television in April 2015 with an early prototype of the robot, previously named HandiMate. Now renamed Ziro, the robotics kit is made up of individual modules that are controlled by a wireless smart glove. A mobile app connects the robot to the smart glove, and the user can program hand gestures to control the robot without any coding.

“A lot of kids have gotten into playing with tablets and smartphones—which has sort of kept us away from engaging in the real world and being spatially engaged,” says Ramani. “When you puppeteer [Ziro]—when you’re controlling it with your hand—you feel that it’s an extension of yourself. You start feeling the movement, and a lot of engagement is about feeling it.”

Unlike other popular robot kits that favor boys, Ramani made it his mission to create a gender neutral toy, and therefore, engage girls who were previously turned off by the masculinity of mechanical toys.

Indiana-based ZeroUI Inc. has purchased an exclusive licensing agreement for the toy; the company's website is currently accepting pre-orders for the robot, which is expected to be on the market later this month.

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