Topobo – robot with kinetic memory

Robot toys are trendy among children these days. Especially DIY robot kits are getting more popular as these kits stimulate imagination and creativity. Topobo kit is becoming a most playful robot kit with kinetic memory where the assembled robot can memorize its motion and play it back. It is possible to teach robot various motions like animal walk, dance by simply guiding it.


Three researchers of MIT Media Lab developed Topobo. This is not a new toy, but since 2003 it was used for various exhibits, and only a few lucky could try this toy. Now, this kit is widely accessible.

Topobo kit consists of passives – different building blocks based on cubic and tetrahedral crystals and actives that are robotic nodes with kinetic memory. There also are so-called Queen actives that can be used as remote controllers or for centralized control. Other special parts are backpack or blocks with sensors and feedback, where without special knowledge they can be used without special programming. Of course, there also is a remote controller which enables to control the robot remotely. It is also useful controlled called Topobo Remix, which acts as a sampler/sequencer to compose robotic motion.


Using these components makes it possible to assemble various robots that mimic real-life animals like dogs, crabs, or even futuristic creatures. The main thing remains that it is possible to program any motion you can imagine without a computer. So how it is possible?

Probably everyone knows Lego Mindstorms kit NXT which can be programmed using PC. The programming interface of NXT-bots is pretty simple – based on drag’n drop (of course it is possible to write own programs by using one of the languages including RCX code, ROBOLAB, C++). But this still needs some computer skills that 5-year-old kids may not have. Topobo kit removes the need for a computer – everything is built inside and combines so that children could play like with regular toys.

Just assemble a bot walk through the table and then allow it to repeat the action.

Topobo is available in the market as various kits starting from $499 where kit includes two actives, 85 passives; and ending with $4999 1000 part kit that includes 16 actives. Prices are quite high but image the time spent with kids building various moving monsters.

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