The New Frontier of Custom Robotics


The world is always changing.

So is the enormous field of robotics.

Not long ago you were privileged to have an MIT handyboard or a Turtle or maybe even a sumo-bot project in your hands. Saying these words a few years ago to most crowds would cause a glazed stare from the crowd as if lobsters were crawling from your ears.

The HRP-4C - Japanese Supermodel Robot

The HRP-4C - Japanese Supermodel Robot

Now we have bioloids, walking, fighting robots fully functioning humanoid robots that kids are familiar with and more importantly, excited about.

A new frontier has opened up because of this: Custom Robotics.

Now that robotics have come to be a household word, it is fantastic that also at the same time companies have been created that can customize or completely build from scratch exactly what you want. And fast. And not at DARPA-level budgets!

A great new example is the Willow PR2 robot. From high-level thinkers involved with Google and Stanford University has come this latest iteration of a truly open-source software personal robot. This is an amazing step towards custom robotics. Not only can the researcher / end user dive into the mechanics of the robot BUT they are also able to utilize its many sensors and motors through an open portal into the robot’s code. It can become what you make it, behaviorally speaking.

But what about custom mechanisms? What about custom “skins”, panels, aesthetic but important features of a “personal robot”? This is where those companies skilled in special effects and prosthetics can play an important role… viagra

How Great Movie Props Make Great Movies


When I see this I think of cool models, maybe some sets, maybe some small artifacts from Star Wars or Runaway or maybe Blade Runner that I might be lucky enough to collect.

Being a part of the worldwide special effects industry I have had some amazing luck in opportunities. One was being a member of Stan Winston’s Mechanical department during the making of “A.I. – Artificial Intelligence”.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Movie props were not simple for this film. I was specifically involved in the creation of the fully animatronic robots in this picture (along with a huge team of my childhood heroes, the 25 year veterans of Hollywood FX). “TV Face” (designed by Aaron Sims) and mechanically executed mostly by Christian Ristow was a truly untethered hydraulic remote controlled animatronic. While we created detailed animatronics and went to set with an armada of robots and support equipment, the “props” department arrived with more than stunning gear.

Haley Joel Osment with TV Face

Haley Joel Osment with TV Face

Most props were robotic. At least mechatronic (very little had any interaction with the environment autonomously). The latest in microcontrollers, LED technology, and fantastic mechanical design came together in each piece they created. It was not a simple computer generated (CG) effect. I was able to hold these things in my hands.

“Props” can have a simplistic connotation in most people’s minds. Even in current films, however, movie props can be more elegant and robotic than most watching those films at home realize.