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Linux-powered robot kit aims for sweet spot between pro and kid products

Feb 19, 2019 — by Eric Brown 1,012 views

Vincross has launched a Kickstarter campaign for a modular “MIND Kit” robotics kit ranging from $89 for the Linux-driven, quad -A53 compute unit to $799 for a complete kit with servo controller, motors, battery, bases, sensors, lidar, and a mic array.

Vincross, which was founded in 2014 by Tsinghua University AI scientist Tianqi Sun, went to Kickstarter last year to launch its six-legged, all-terrain HEXA robot, controlled by a Linux-based MIND SDK. Now, the company has returned with a smarter and more modular MIND Kit robotics kit with an updated MIND 2.0 SDK. The company also announced a $10 funding round led by Lenovo (see farther below).

MIND Kit with rover (left) and tank bases
(click images to enlarge)

The MIND Kit aims to fill the gap between professional robotics kits and robot development kits aimed at children. Robotics kits aimed at roboticists and experienced robot hobbyists are too complex for most users, and the kits aimed at kids lack modularity, flexibility, and programming depth, says Vincross.


The MIND Kit is not an update to the HEXA – instead, it’s aimed primarily at two-wheel or tank-like track-wheeled robots. You could build an “eight-legged, all-terrain robot akin to HEXA,” says Vincross. However, “for now at least it lacks any all-terrain, insect-like walking design.”


The MIND Kit runs the Linux-based MIND 2.0 stack on a “Cerebrum” subsystem, which is available on its own in an $89 early bird or $99 standard package. Once you receive your Cerebrum, you will be able to purchase other components a la carte (see price list farther below). Otherwise, you can choose one of the combo packages. Assuming Vincross makes its $100K goal by Mar. 21, all products are due to ship in September.

MIND Kit rover (left) and MIND Kit components
(click images to enlarge)

The Mind Kit’s Cerebrum unit runs MIND OS on an unnamed, quad-core, Cortex-A53 SoC clocked to 1.2GHz. (By comparison, the HEXA has a dual-core Cortex-A9 SoC.) The new SoC supports complex AI computations including computer vision or Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM).

The Cerebrum provides 2GB DDR3 RAM, 8GB eMMC, and an 802.11b/g/n WiFi radio that can be used as an access point. You also get 6x USB Type-C ports and 54 programmable pins with GPIO, SPI, I2S, ADC, UART, TWI, PWM, VCC, and GND.

Surprisingly, there’s no camera option, which you could presumably hook up via USB. There’s also no video interface. Nevertheless, Vincross lists up to 4K@30fps H.265 video support plus 1080p@60fps encoding via H.264.

By skipping the camera, Vincross may be discouraging the use of a MIND Kit computer as a spy camera. On the other hand, the most advanced kit includes a mic array.

The Cerebrum and other major components are equipped with a MIND Kit port for easy plug and play stacking configurations. The other major unit is the Servo Controller, which can drive up to 20 servo motors simultaneously. The available motors offer torque listed as “10kg·cm.”

There’s also a 480W, 2500mAh Li-Ion “Energon” battery. The 12V Energon can discharge up to 40 amps and is “optimized to run both servo motors and AI algorithms.”

Major MIND Kit units (left) and a la carte price list
(click images to enlarge)

Both the Servo Controller and Energon join the Cerebrum in a Robot Core Kit ($249 early bird, $299 standard). The kit is further equipped with dual IR sensors and dual distance measure sensors, both of which plug into the USB Type-C ports. It also includes dual servo-motors. To make a mobile robot, you will need to advance to the Robot Combo Kit ($399 early bird, $449 standard), which offers everything in the Core Kit and adds two more servo-motors and a two-wheel rover base.

A Robot Ultimate Complete Kit ($799 early, $849 standard) adds the track-wheeled tank base to the mix, as well as a 6-mic array and speaker for voice control. It also includes a lidar kit for 2D laser scanning SLAM navigation. The lidar unit has a 360° field of view, 14,400 points per second support, and a resolution of of less than 1mm.

The Kickstarter page lists a $169 soccer base option that is not included in any of the package bundles. Designed for robot soccer competitions, it is similar to the Rover Kit but adds moresensors and an ejection device. It also ships with a sensor-enabled ball to kick around.

Ultimate Kit contents (left) and salt and pepper dispenser robot
(click images to enlarge)

The press release refers to a 4-axis robotic arm, and there are references to a 3-axis arm in the GIFs that show various sample creations such as an automated salt-and-pepper dispenser. However, these gripper-equipped appendages don’t appear to be available via Kickstarter.

The MIND OS 2.0 SDK is accompanied by a Mind Studio IDE. The IDE enables developers to code, pack, and test robot programs, and includes tutorials and sample applications. MIND OS can also be integrated with OpenCV, ROS, and other AI libraries. MIND OS is supported by the existing Vincross Forum community. A Skills Store will let users “share your creatives and test out the Skills with your fellow robot-enthusiasts,” says Vincross.

Vincross has just received $10 Million in Series A+ funding, led by Lenovo, with participation from previous investors including GGV and Seek Dource, The company received an earlier $6 Million Series A round led by GGV Capital and participated by Zhenfund.

Another robot that just hit Kickstarter is Sphero’s next-gen RVR. Offered for $199 or $299, this simple, four-wheeled bot doesn’t run Linux, but will offer connections that hook it up to a Raspberry Pi.

Further information

The Mind Kit is available in early bird packages starting at $89 for the Cerebrum compute unit alone or $249 to $799 for various bundled packages. Standard pricing is slightly higher but is lower than the eventual retail pricing. Packages will ship in September, and shipping is free to the continental U.S. More information may be found at the MIND Kit Kickstarter page. More on the current version of MIND OS may be found on the Vincross MIND OS page.

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