What it is
Hexa is a seriously cool robot spider from Vincross, who are based in China and the USA. Well, more exactly it is a hexapod, having six, rather than a standard spider’s eight legs, arranged around a central head and body. It arrived towards the end of last year, having been the subject of a Kickstarter project that I was pleased to support. Even with the Kickstarter discount it was the most expensive single robot I’ve yet bought for RobotFun.
Before I’d got around to taking the pictures so that I could add it to the web site it unfortunately broke down, a situation which required it to be returned to the repair shop in California. I still don’t know what the problem was, only that it was fixed by having the robot’s entire brain and body replaced! Now, though, it is back and has been wowing many school children at our workshops and earning its keep as a spectacular end to a number of robot parties.
How it works
Hexa has six legs, with toe, knee and hip joints on each. Its head is mounted on a motor that can spin all the way around, and it can walk in any direction. Usefully, it always looks where it is going, which is very handy when you’re driving it using an iPhone. When walking normally, Hexa is about 45 cm across and roughly 12cm tall. It also has a ‘marching’ gait where it stands up a bit higher and strides a bit, and a ‘cave’ gait, where the legs scooch up into two sets of three, making the robot only just a bit wider than its body. In this form, Hexa sort of scuttles forward and backwards. This amazing flexibility of its legs also allow Hexa to climb stairs, as long as they aren’t too tall or steep!
Hexa is able to tell which way up it is, and can also see objects and colours within about 0.5m of its eye. It has a decent quality video and still camera too, and can stream video from the robot via the app to a projector.
Like the Sphero robots, Hexa supports wireless charging, so one could program it to go on patrol returning to its charging pad every once in a while for a quick top-up.
It runs ‘skills’, programmed in an AI language called Golang. Hexa’s standard skill set includes an obstacle avoidance program, where it turns away when it approaches within 0.5m of an obstacle. Hexa is great at ‘bullfighting’, where it reacts to red things that are waved close by. It also has a brilliant dance skill, with over 20 pre-programmed moves that can be selected in sequence by tapping different numbered buttons. If you want to have a go, there’s a free software Hexa simulator that you can use to develop them. This requires a PC or Mac – sadly there isn’t (yet) an iOS app for that.
Hexa is also expandable. Its head can be replaced by a 3D printed part to carry extra sensors and so on. The coolest project that I’ve come across so far is a mobile plant nursery. To do this, its head is replaced by one that can carry a small flowerpot, and a moisture sensor is connected to the expansion port situated under the head shell. This allows Hexa to carry the plant to where there is the right amount of moisture in the air for the plant!