Gael Langevin, pictured above, is the creator of the InMoov robot, a 3D printed robot that anyone (with access to a 3D printer) can build! Gael has recently taken time away from his very busy schedule to graciously give us a chance to interview him. And so, on with the Gael Langevin and InMoov interview.
R&A: Thank you so very much Gael for taking time out from your very busy day to interview with Robots and Androids. And speaking of busy, are you travelling or at your studio today?
Gael: First I'd like to say hello to all the Robots and Androids Readers! At the moment yes I'm traveling to the Netherlands, I'm working to develop kits along with WeVolver, a Dutch startup.
Gael: And I'm also planning to visit an InMoov builder that lives in Holland and that captivates my attention. The man is ill and his motivation, every time he comes out of the hospital, is to keep on building InMoov. It makes me want to meet him for real and not only through the internet, because we are the humans, building the robots of tomorrow.
R&A:Where is your studio located?
Gael: My workshop is located in Paris, France. You know where there is the Eiffel Tower and where we make the Chanel perfumes.
R&A:Sounds like a GREAT place to work! How long have you been designing robots? And when did you start on InMoov?
Gael: It's been a very recent adventure actually. I started getting into robotics less than 3 years ago, January 2012.
R&A:What got you started in designing robots? What was your inspiration?
Gael: I bought a 3D printer for my work, Like everyone, I printed little things like rabbits and Yoda, but I wanted to get something big out of that machine, so I designed a 3D printed prosthetic hand.
R&A:Prosthetics? I thought there might be some connection. Was there a human model for InMoov? Is InMoov supposed to resemble any specific person?
Gael: This is a secret I won't answer. All I can tell you is that when I sculpt the body parts in the software, I base myself on a human figure to make sure I stay in the lines and shapes.
R&A:Were there before, or are there now any other people helping to create InMoov?
Gael: This project is a sculpture; I design all of it myself and release the parts on the internet. But for programming, yes there is now a community which starts to really help. The More InMoov builders there are, the more makers, programmers and geeks come along. That's what InMoov needs to get its intelligence.
R&A:Is this now your full time job? Or do you have other work?
Gael: No it is not my fulltime job, I can only work on the project during my spare time. I'm a sculptor/ designer, I work for big brands for 25 years, making objects for commercials and advertisements. My job is to constantly to find aesthetically and technical solutions for my clients. It can be in various materials, metal, wood, plaster, stone, but also resins, plastics, liquids, smoke, fire...
R&A:Wow! Have you designed and/or created any other robots?
Gael: No, not really, although I did make some objects that looked like robot parts, but they wouldn't move or could not be programmed.
R&A:You have now shown InMoov to many people in many places across Europe. What was the most interesting place you have taken InMoov?
Gael: Tough question. They were all interesting to me because I'm living a whole new experience and discover things on every trip. I really enjoyed going to Rome (Italy) and during summer I went to St. Petersburg in Russia for a big event (Geek Picnic) I really had a great time. I also will attend the big World Maker Faire in New York and I am very much looking forward to this event.
R&A: That sounds like a fantastic experience. Please tell me about the time that you had scores of 3D printers printing InMoov.
Gael: That was the first event I intended. It took place in Utrecht (NL) and was organized by WeVolver. The goal was to print all the parts of InMoov in one day on fifty-five 3D printers, all gathered through the country. There were also a bunch of hackers that would build the robot, as the parts would be finished to be printed. We didn't succeed because of a cold blowing wind which would prevent the printers to work properly. Anyway we had a very fun day and super interesting. The robot was only half built.
R&A:Well, half is a good thing too. What is a typical day like in the world of Gael Langevin? Is it all work, work and more work?
Gael: I guess work, work, work is during the day, but the trick, is to sleep really late, (around 2:00AM) which gives me extra hours for myself, this way during these extra gained hours on our short lives, I work on the InMoov project.
R&A:This author has been working on his InMoov over the last year. How many InMoov robots are there now being built in the world? How many “complete”robots do you know of? How many have YOU printed and built?
Gael: I really can't answer that, I can only make a rough estimation based on the number of downloads and all the various pictures and videos I see on the internet. I think there is about one hundred and fifty InMoov being built, but they are at various stages. To give you an idea, just the hand has been downloaded more than 50 000 times (all parts together) But I know only a few complete robots, because those builders are close and they work along and share their ideas.
We have created a map on which builders can locate themselves, it is growing fast. I personally must have printed 3 robots, considering all the iteration parts I don't use, but only one comes out of all the printed parts. It is the one you can see on the events. I printed 6 complete hands and forearm since the beginning of the project.
R&A:50,000 times? WOW! Do you think anyone can build an InMoov or do you think it is just a project for skilled engineers?
Gael: It is not an easy project, but InMoov is conceived in a way so you can learn and discover how to build a robot. I designed what I call the "Finger Starter", it is a 3D printed finger kit which relies on a Arduino Uno micro controller and a servo motor. Once you know how to make this little kit work, you can go for the next step, the hand. And so on. You do need a well-tuned printer; otherwise you will end up with many unusable parts and will be disappointed.
R&A:If a reader decided today to build an InMoov, from start to finish, how many hours might it take him to print and build one? How much money might it cost?
Gael: Hours with 3D printing is something you need to forget, it just takes a lot of time, but once you start on my project and get addicted to it, it doesn't matter. Just take it as it goes, like I do. Money-wise InMoov is a very cheap robot for its size compared to any other robots on the market. You should count on it being around a 1000 dollars, and add to that a 3D printer.
R&A:How many printed parts are there within InMoov? How many servo motors?
Gael: I don't know, actually, because I just released a bunch of parts lately. The last time I knew, I had designed 184 pieces. You need to know that I design each part for 3D printers with a 12 cm3 build area, so any home printer can reproduce/clone my robot. It is like big Lego, or a puzzle. There is at the moment 32 hobby servos to get the robot working and two Arduino boards.
R&A:What would a reader need in the way of tools to create InMoov? I suppose a computer and a 3D Printer would be the bare minimum to get started.
Gael: A computer and a 3D Printer, drill or Dremel, fill, sand paper, glue, screwdrivers, threading tools (3, 4, 5, 8mm), a cutter.
R&A:How do you generate your robot designs? PC? 3D software?
Gael: I design my parts with open source software called Blender. There is a huge community and tutorials to learn how to use it. But it is not an easy tool to learn 3D designing.
R&A:What 3D printer do you use?
Gael: I have a 3D Touch printer which is no longer being sold. The company has been bought by 3D Systems. I had to create my own heated bed, because it wasn't as a standard thing at the time.
R&A:Have you filed for any patents?
Gael: Each parts are released under a License CC BY-NC 3.0. (Creative Commons attribution-non-commercial) “InMoov”is a trademark.
R&A:What computers do you develop and run your InMoov software on?
Gael: InMoov is powered by MyRobotLab, a software package developed by Greg Perry and the community. To get InMoov autonomous, I'm working on getting the software to work on a Odroid U3 board which is Linux compliant.
R&A:What capabilities does the current leading edge InMoov have?
Gael: InMoov can listen to voice commands, talk and move. Its gestures can be very human-like. He can see, search for people and objects, he can track them in space and variable environments through his eyes(cameras). He can detect when there is movement at a certain distance and start a welcome sequence followed by random actions depending on your responses. He has a Kinect which lets us do gesture recognition. InMoov shares its scripts with all the other InMoov robots, which means they learn from each other, yet on a very basic level. All of this is a work in progress which evolves everyday as the community grows.
R&A:I see that you have been working on feet for InMoov. How long will it be before InMoov walks?
Gael: I don't know, it all depends of my spare time, and legs and feet are such a challenge.
R&A:What future capabilities do you want to give him?
Gael: To walk of course!
R&A: How long before we see a Miss InMoov—and perhaps an InMoov Junior and a dog?
Gael: Ah! I already have designed some parts that could let you think InMoov is a female. But I like, during my design, to try to create an androgynous robot, it is more interesting I think because it is more adaptable. (Okay, okay, the biceps of my robot aren't androgynous at this stage, ah, ha, ha!)
R&A: Where do you see InMoov (and Gael) in 10 years?
Gael: Me and my wife, sitting on a couch and InMoov getting us a fresh drink.
R&A: Now that sounds GREAT! How can people contact you?
Gael: They can contact me through the InMoov forum, or also through the InMoov web site: www.inmoov.fr
R&A: Is there anything else that you would like to tell our readers?
Gael: If I release InMoov as open source, it's because I believe that we can change our vision of society. Sharing information and knowledge is the key for multicultural understanding. We are on the edge of creating a new species, what do we want to teach them from us? Moreover, what do we want them to become? They will be our extension to explore other planets, to which they certainly will bring life.
R&A: Thank you Gael, and best of luck with all your endeavors, especially InMoov!
Gael: Thanks to the community for sharing, ideas, info, and knowledge without whom InMoov wouldn't exist.