purpose of beating the crap out of each other.
Modern sensors are now accessible too — brains
are still the cost-complexity stumble for Turing
competence, so it’s great that the AI community
has finally decided “emotion” is not a dirty word,
so we can explore bots with feelings.
I have to give a shout-out to Festo ( festo.com) for
showing that robots can be things of wonder and
grace, to my JPL homies for keeping their little red
Mars wagons roaming well past their warranty,
Theo Jansen ( strandbeest.com), steampunk,
solarbotics.com, Pixar, and Japanese robo-culture,
but mostly, to anyone who recognizes the electric
screwdriver as their prime weapon of exploration
and mischief. (And on that note, it’s been 21 years
since BEAM robotics was invented, so take your
Robosapien out for a drink. He’s legal now!)
Fig. C: Online videos of Festo’s AirPenguin went viral
among robot enthusiasts, thanks to its seemingly
effortless, fluid movements (see makezine.com/go/
penguin). Fig. D: Robosapien comes of age.
industrial and computer ages did.
Grassroots innovation is showcased daily on
our forums from builders across the globe. Some
» Kare Halvorsen in Norway has created
amazingly advanced inverse kinematics with
his Phoenix and A-Pod hexapods, which exhibit
amazingly lifelike movements. Usually this level
of motion control is only found in heavily funded
research projects, but Halvorsen’s work is now
accessible to anyone in the amateur community
and available in pro-hobbyist kits.
» Our very own Andrew Alter has been working
nights and weekends on his Hagetaka Mech robot
for competition in Mech Warfare at this year’s
RoboGames. Wireless control with a video feed to
headset goggles; dynamic, kinematic-driven bipedal
gaits using 7-degrees-of-freedom, reverse-knee-joint legs; auto-balancing using a 6-axis balance
sensor; and dual airsoft guns are just a few of its
features. It stands 27" high and its servos are strong
enough to carry 4 pounds of payload, which is a lot
(for those who may not know).
Matt Trossen CEO of hobby and educational
robotics vendor Trossen Robotics
Here at Trossen, we get a more street-level view of things than a mainstream retail view. From
a big commercial perspective, one might think that
the robotics industry is in trouble.
In the last six months we’ve seen prominent
robotics products stall or fail: Ugobe, maker of Pleo,
filed for bankruptcy; Tomy discontinued the i-Sobot;
Roomba seems to have peaked and everyone is
waiting for a successor. We don’t see any of this
as real commentary on the state of robotics. Blips
on the consumer radar are common when early
adopter companies gamble at putting bleeding-edge technology on store shelves.
To us, the heart and soul of robotic innovation is
alive and kicking. We see it every day, in research labs,
robotics small business products, academic competitions, and especially, in the garages and basements
of independent innovators. While retail robotics might
be falling victim to a stalling economy, those “on the
street” are hard at work, inventing, experimenting,
and learning about the next great technology that will
likely change human society in the same way that the
Simone Davalos Co-producer of RoboGames
( robogames.net) and lead editor at Suicide Bots
In my field of recreational robotics, robots don’t necessarily perform brain surgery or provide
award-winning customer service. These are bots that
just about anyone can build, just for the fun of it.
The most amazing thing I see is the amount of