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Salvius: A Humanoid Robot Born from a Junkyard

DFRobot Aug 06 2015 317
While Salvius may not look like other ‘sleek’ models, it costs significantly
less, packs an Intel Edison, and is completely open-source.

These days you can find and buy your very own robot from any number of companies (ROBOTIS, KumoTek, Honda, etc.). However, they can cost in excess of $12,000 or more and typically rely on specialized software to function. Back when I was a kid, 20 years ago, my friends and I would try to build our own robots using parts found from the local junkyards, and the odds and ends our parents gave us from broken equipment (think lawnmowers, etc.).

Suffice it to say, the readily available technology we have today (servomotors, actuators, dev boards) wasn’t really commercially available back then — meaning our creations rarely functioned as they would today.

Those days of garage-based robotics are hardly over, in fact, it has become easier than ever to build one thanks to Gunther Cox and his friends over at Salvius.org and their ongoing development of the Salvius robot.

Salvius shown with exposed internals and completed biped legs.

As the name implies, Salvius is derived from the term ‘salvage’ and, true to its namesake, the robot is made of almost all recycled materials and components with an Intel Edison used as the bot’s “brain.”

I asked Gunther about using recycled components and if it would still appeal to the older generation of robotic hobbyists, especially when new components are readily available. He responded, “I think the use of recycled materials has an appealing quality for any generation of robot builders.”

He went on to say,

“I think for older generations, the appeal of recycling parts comes from the fact that you aren’t just throwing things away, instead you are taking what still works and giving it new life. Younger generations tend to focus on the benefits of conserving resources, but this is also a topic which effects every generation of hobbyists.”

That’s a point I hadn’t considered — the new generation of kids learning robotics, either at home or in STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) classes, would find Salvius to be a highly suitable tool to learn with.

Salvius is constantly being updated with lighter, more efficient parts such
as this arm and hand, which will eventually be able to write at some point in the future.

Of course, the robot features open-source Python-based software that’s available to any who want to use it and Gunther went into more detail on what it is and what dev boards it’s compatible with:

“Salvius is built using an open-source python framework for robotics called Zorg. I am also a part of the team who developed and maintains this software. Zorg makes it possible to write code that can be run interchangeably on various dev and single-board computers.”

He goes on to state,

“We started off with support for the Intel Edison and will soon be releasing support for the Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards. Zorg has some really cool functionality built in to it, for example it properly handles threading so that your robots can take full advantage of devices like the Intel Edison and the Raspberry Pi that have multiple processors.”

It will be interesting to see how Salvius evolves over the coming months and years as its original design is constantly improved, but judging from an earlier post (from several years ago), Gunther and his team are looking to “create a self-sufficient robot that’s able to repair and power itself in a dynamic domestic environment.”

Salvius and much more were at the Cape Cod Mini Maker Faire. Be sure to check out the next one and see what amazing things your neighbors are making!