If you haven’t heard of Hiwonder just yet – it’s only a matter of time. For starters you have to be impressed with their mission:
“Hiwonder Co. Ltd, founded in 2015, is a provider of comprehensive solutions for STEAM Education. Our value is to concentrate our resources on extending product range, providing comprehensive courses, keep products and curriculum up-to-date, align with global standard and latest educational concepts and high service standard.”
This is their declaration that they are planted firmly in the education space and their products back that up in a lot of ways. Just in broad strokes they rely on Arduino and Raspberry PI for the brains of their various robots and, at least for the humanoid robots, they have a suite of mounting brackets and servo motors that are very modular – allowing for easy assembly and repair when needed (something that is generally overlooked by other robotics companies.) This also keeps their costs under control so you can get lots of capability for the dollar.
They have various configurations and “building blocks” to work with: a robot car chassis, Spider Pro hexapod, Puppy Pi (patterned after the Boston Dynamics dog, Spot), a full, four fingers-and-a-thumb hand, (and matching control glove) a high resolution Camera platform, a couple of robot arms and of course humanoid robots. A number of these elements are designed to complement each other. You can mount the camera on the chassis and you have a roving spybot for example.
Like most robot companies, their technology showcase is the humanoid bot and their latest is the Tony Pi Pro. Which is shorthand for the Tony Pi + some improvements in control modules and sensors (see picture, below). The pro has an impressive array of capabilities:
- A high definition camera “eye” in its head with pan and tilt capability
- Software for the camera supports a variety of functions:
- Color Recognition (Red, Blue, Green + color balance adjustments)
- Facial Recognition (including whether or not you are wearing a surgical mask)
- Reading 2D bar codes (which act as instructions or targets)
- It is pre-programmed with the following activities:
- Retrieving/identifying balls or foam cubes by their color
- Following an object of a specific color
- Following a floor track (line)
- Placing colored foam cubes in specific locations
- Greetings/Dance Moves
- Running an obstacle course (really more of a shuffle than a run)
All of these functions can easily be handled by an app that you download directly to your smart phone. The robot connects via Bluetooth. There is also an option to operate it through a game console. The Hiwonder game controller looks a lot like it could just be a standard PlayStation 2 controller.
The Tony Pi Pro interestingly does not have a speaker, so all communication in non-verbal. When it recognizes your face, it waves “hello”. If it is supposed to be looking for a green cube and you show it a red one, it will shake its head “no”. The most impressive thing about the Tony Pi Pro is just that they were able to pack so many different functions into a nice well-made product. It’s not the fastest or made to battle other bots – but when it comes to its core mission of supporting STEAM, providing lots of accessory items, using open-source software for transparency and making it affordable, Tony wins, hands down.
Check out the Hiwonder TonyPi Pro unboxing video from KhanFlicks to give you an idea what Tony is capable of.