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Darwin-OP: the Linux of Humanoid Robots

As much as robots would like to take over the planet, the exorbitant costs and build times associated with making one are just too restrictive. Even with death lasers and flesh-ripping blades, if we outnumber them a hundred to one, we still have a chance.

The Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) of Virginia Tech plan to change all that. Their humanoid robot, DARwin-OP, is taking the Linux route of mass production: Going open source. You can get the schematics and operating system online, and in theory build your own version without paying a single cent -- aside from parts, that is.

Alternatively, you can approach Virginia Tech's partner Robotis and purchase a ready-made cat-eared mini-mech for $12,000 ($9,600 with an educational discount). Pricey, but in terms of research robots, that's still cheaper than its closest competitor, Aldebaran Systems' Nao.

Just like any open-source platform, DARwin-OP has one more thing up its metallic sleeve: it's highly customizable. You can pimp it out any way you choose, like giving it stronger legs or laser death hands. Yeah, that's going to turn out well for humanity.

[source: RoMeLa via IEEE Spectrum]