Hip to Be Cubed: Modular Robotics Raises More Than $56K Via Kickstarter

11/7/13Follow @MichaelXBD

Add another name to the list of well-funded startups turning to Kickstarter to build an audience and gain exposure for new product launches.

Modular Robotics is a Boulder, CO-based startup that builds robotic construction kits. On Thursday, ModRobotics began a Kickstarter campaign for MOSS, its second product. The target is to raise $100,000 within 34 days, but the company isn’t primarily interested in the money, co-founder, CEO, and design director Eric Schweikardt said.

Instead ModRobotics wants publicity for MOSS and the chance to connect with gadget fans and tech geeks—and tech reporters—who have turned Kickstarter into the go-to marketplace for people who want neat products they can tinker with before they appear in stores.

“It’s where people go for cool new tech toys these days,” Schweikardt said.

So far, MOSS is a hit and is well on its way to hitting its goal. As of noon, ModRobotics had raised $56,405 on Kickstarter.

ModRobotics is the second Boulder-based startup that has used Kickstarter for a new product. In September, Occipital’s Structure 3D sensor made its debut on the crowdfunding site. Occipital raised more than $1.29 million and hit its $100,000 goal within hours.

Offline, ModRobotics raised $3 million in a 2012 Series A round led by the Foundry Group, a venture capital firm based in Boulder. The startup’s seed funding came from National Science Foundation grants.

But enough about Kickstarter, investors, and grants—let’s talk robots. Deceptively simple robots that, according to Schweikardt, distill sophisticated technology and theory into small magnetic blocks young children can use to assemble robots within minutes of opening their kits.

Before today’s launch, ModRobotics’ only product was its Cubelets. Cubelets are magnetic cubes the size of building blocks that contain motors, sensors, or batteries. Each Cubelet contains a microprocessor and is programmable, although they come pre-programmed out of the box.

Every Cubelet is a tiny robot in its own right, but Cubelet’s strength is in numbers— to start playing, a user just has to connect a Cubelet with a built-in light sensor to a battery Cubelet and to a Cubelet with a small motor and wheels. That’s enough to make a three-piece robot smart enough to drive around on a table and respond to changing light conditions.

Snap enough Cubelets together and you have machines that have surprisingly life-like behavior and can act in any number of ways.

“Every single construction kit can be used … Next Page »

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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