By Scott Simmie
What could possibly be better than dressing up for Hallowe’en?
For Dave Niewinski, the answer was clear: Dress up a robot for Hallowe’en. Specifically, transform a quadruped robot into a Pokémon character.
“This was definitely a different project than what I normally do – usually they’re more technical,” explains Niewinski. “I just wanted to try something different.”
And it doesn’t get more different than this:
A little background
Dave Niewinski is an engineer, one who has long had a passion for robotics. He does contract and consulting work for a number of major robotics companies (including InDro) and others interested in learning more about robotic solutions. That’s what pays the bills.
But Niewinski also wears another hat: Builder of fantastical creations that wind up on his Dave’s Armoury website and YouTube channel. You’ll find a ton of amazing videos on that channel – everything from a robotic arm lighting up fireworks for Canada Day through to a custom setup for pouring beer from a tap. (The “arm” in “Dave’s Armoury” comes from his frequent work with robotic arms.)
The YouTube channel provides Niewinski with an outlet for his creative side, a place where he builds devices with wild new capabilities, while also entertaining and educating his audience along the way.
“I end up making YouTube videos to (A): Have fun. But also partly for just educating people,” he says. “Usually when I write code I put the code up online. I also like showing that robots aren’t some scary unattainable thing.”
As it turns out, InDro Robotics had loaned Niewinski a Unitree GO 1 robot to play around with. The quadruped already looks a bit like an animal, and that got him thinking: What if dressed this up for Hallowe’en?
And so he did, choosing to transform the GO 1 into Jolteon. This wasn’t a simple task, and at one point in the transformation GO 1 looked more than a bit like an unfortunate lamb:
With a little help from his neighbour – and some 200 hours of 3D printing – Jolteon took shape.
Unlike most of Niewinski’s projects, there wasn’t any coding involved with this project. It was simple (and not-so-simple) cosmetics.
Check out the full video showcasing how GO 1 became Jolteon: We guarantee you it’s totally worth your time. (And if you like it, subscribe to his amazing channel.)
Niewinski took Jolteon for a walk around the neighborhood – and people were amazed by his creation.
“For a lot of people my age (he’s 33), our childhood was Pokémon. So to actually see it walking around in reality was unattainable until now. People loved it,” he says.
His kids loved it, too. Maddy (five) and Ollie (three) are used to seeing robots around the house. So much so, that they give them nicknames. The GO 1 is affectionately known as ‘Max’ and the AgileX Bunker Pro is known as ‘Frank the Tank.’
Speaking of the Frank: “He pulls all the kids around town. I’ve got a La-Z-Boy on top of him at the moment.”
Below: Jolteon’s 3D-printed head…
Robots keep getting better
Just a few short years ago, an affordable quadruped like the Unitree GO 1 would have been unthinkable. But with the increase in computing power (EDGE computing), better and cheaper sensors, plus advances in robot hardware – robots just keeping getting better at a near-exponential pace. Niewinski refers to the sensors, hardware and raw computing power as the three essential forces driving this change.
“All three of those are advancing so quickly, and they all rely on each other,” he says.
“You could have the best dog hardware, but if you don’t have great cameras or great processing power, it doesn’t really matter. Those three pillars of robotics are all advancing, (and) we’re going to continue seeing ridiculous leaps in robotics.”
It’s always a pleasure both working with Dave Niewinski on the serious stuff – and seeing the amazing projects he creates on his own. It’s terrific to see what passion, combined with technical talent, can produce.
We also agree with him about those three pillars of robotics. Whether drones or ground robots, we’ve seen phenomenal leaps in technology in recent years. Better sensors, better robot hardware, better EDGE computing – all working synergically.
Those leaps mean more powerful, more affordable solutions for data acquisition, asset monitoring and much more. It also keeps our engineering staff on their toes to see how InDro can further improve that technology for even more ambitious use-cases.
Sometimes, though, it’s nice to take a break and just have fun. And Niewinski’s creation certainly gave us – and, hopefully, you – a smile.