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Curio is an interactive animatronic toy you can program and play with (hands-on)


It's always nice to have a little buddy around that's trained to do what you want it to. Some of us get dogs or other furry creatures, but a start-up called Curio is hoping there's a good chunk of folks who would like to have a robotic companion, too. You see, Curio is a cute little bot platform filled with a pair of motors that move its mouth and head, and has a small LCD screen that serves as its face. The toy clips to any smartphone or tablet running the associated app, which in turn allows users to set its facial expression, determine its movements and even tell it what to say.

While the app will come with a bunch of pre-set actions, expressions and sounds, its makers are also working up a programming portion of the app, so tinkerers can create their own custom Curio mods. This programming interface is a series of parallel timelines that allow you to chronologically lay out different facial expressions, movements and audio simply by dragging and dropping them where you like. And Curio's built to be physically customized, too. Company founder Mike Kneupfel thinks that his bots can take advantage of the 3D printing craze by letting folks make their own tails, ears, and other accessories that clip onto Curio. He tells us that he aims to put a bunch of accessory blueprints on MakerBot's Thingiverse to make it easy for folks to print stuff out, but he's hoping that users will get creative and design their own as well.


While the customization options are pretty nifty, the cleverest bit about Curio is that it communicates with your mobile via light sensors and three spring-loaded capacitive pegs embedded in the base. To get it to recognize your Curio, you press the thing down until the pegs touch the screen, which in turn tells the app where your robot's positioned. From there, the app communicates with the bot via a series of flashing white dots, which are picked up by the light sensors. This mode of communication means that the robot can work with literally any screen, just as long as its running Curio's app.

For now, Curio only works with iOS, but the company is still in its early stages, and Curio may look a bit different by the time you can actually buy one. When the time comes, however, Knuepfel tells us that he's shooting for a price point of $100. Until then, you'll have to settle for a Romo or a Sphero to get your programmable robotic fix.

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