OF THE ART
Robot engineers and
enthusiasts discuss what’s
currently holding their
BY GARETH BRANWYN
To gather thumbnail sketches of what’s going on in amateur and pro- fessional robotics, we asked some of our favorite robot builders, suppliers,
and researchers a simple question: What’s the most exciting thing for you
in robotics right now? Here’s what they had to say.
I-Wei Huang Crabfu Steam Works, creator
of steam-powered and radio-controlled robots
and walking and flying machines ( crabfu.com)
What I love most about building robots is trying to achieve a hint of the illusion of life.
I try and make people feel something for a heap of
hardware. The easiest and fastest way to do this is
with humor. That’s why most of my contraptions
are cute, wonky, odd, with no real purpose except
to (hopefully) make people smile.
Recent developments in robotics show machines
getting more fluid, organic in their motions. But
I think more effort should be devoted to this art of
illusion. I’ve been awarded five medals at RoboGames,
and received several golds for Best of Show, with
very simple contraptions. They won out against
much more sophisticated robots because they
conveyed a characterful impression that stuck with
the audience (and the judges). They’re laughable,
literally. And people respond to that.
Ken Gracey Vice president of microcontroller
and robot kit manufacturer Parallax, Inc.
Without a doubt, the state of the art in robot- ics right now is Dean Goedde’s AttoPilot
( attopilot.com). We’ve all seen lots of hobby and
54 Make: Volume 19
Fig. A: Crabfu Steam Works’ characterful Swashbots
are designed to elicit an emotional response.
Fig. B: Dean Goedde’s AttoPilot turns almost any
R/C model plane into an unmanned aerial vehicle
educational autopilot variants, but this one is based
on complete scientific integration of all sensors
into PID control loops (see makezine.com/go/pid).
As a scientist from Intel, Goedde has taken the
right approach with this product, starting from the
mapping of Google Earth coordinates, to the storage of this data on an SD card, to the plugin for his
There’s a reason all the right people are talking
to Goedde about this product. When he throws an
airplane up into the sky and turns off its transmitter, you really understand the importance of this
Mark Tilden Inventor of BEAM robotics,
creator of Robosapien, and robot designer for
Wow Wee ( wowwee.com)
For me, the coolest thing in robotics currently is inexpensive gearboxes and servos. They’ve
allowed a whole generation of Robo-One (robo-one.
com) Frankensteins to quickly evolve into affordable, sophisticated humanoids created for the sole