I attended both MakerCon and Maker Faire Bay area this year, and they were fantastic. I had been to the World Maker Faire before. The Bay Area Maker Faire is like a wild, mutant version of the New York City event with a huge dollop of Burning Man on top.
Here are some of my favorite robots from the week, and follow me on Robots Dreams if you want to see more of my work.
Fugitt’s Favorites: Robots of MakerCon and Maker Faire
E-Nable founder Jon Schull
One of the most interesting, and unexpected, applications was e-NABLE, a network of volunteers donating their time and know-how to design and manufacture free prostheses for children and adults that are missing fingers or hands, typically in 3rd world countries without access to advanced medical technology.
RAPIRO: A Cute Humanoid Robot
RAPIRO put in an appearance in the Seeed Studio booth demonstrating its hybrid controller design utilizing a Raspberry-Pi controller for high level functions and application programming coupled with a custom designed Arduino board that handles the robots servos and LEDs. In line with the philosophy of most makers, RAPIRO features an Open-Source body design with downloadable STL files, to make it easy for users to adapt/modify/hack/improve the robot as they like.
The new DARwin-MINI humanoid robot kit from ROBOTIS, introduced at the Bay Area Maker Faire and on sale in the MakerShed, drew large crowds. Fully functional with 17 degrees of freedom, the robot is Open-Source from both the hardware and software perspectives since STLs for all the body parts are downloadable online and the built-in controller is Arduino IDE compatible.
The real surprise is that while the kit sells for USD$499 all the servos are full performance digital models rather than the cheap analog servos typical in other low cost kits. Makers will be able to develop robot applications that utilize a wide range of sensors as well as monitoring each servo’s position, speed, torque, and temperature. I talked to several educators at the Faire that purchased the DARwin-MINI and planned on incorporating it into their STEM curriculum, especially since the low price will allow them to get more students involved hands-on. One of them pointed out that their students that learn humanoid robotics with the DARwin-MINI will be able to use their know-how directly with its larger and more powerful cousins, like the Bioloid Premium and DARwin-OP models popular in high schools, universities, and major research labs.
Roy the Robot
Roe has been able to replicate, to a significant degree, mechanisms and performance that companies and research facilities spend large budgets to accomplish. He does it by substituting creativity and motivation for capital investment, and using a Kickstarter project to get a large community of other passionate makers involved.
Characters from "LEO the Maker Prince"
Now, having established herself as a well known and highly regarded product designer, author, and educator, she is introducing a whole new generation of potential makers to the wonders of design and 3D printing via the “LEO the Maker Prince - Journeys in 3D Printing”.
3D Printed Electric Car
Being a maker often provides the opportunity to think outside the box, to experiment, and to answer the “what if I?” question. It allows you to experiment with new materials and try things that wouldn’t occur to non-makers. For Michael Curry, one of the most knowledgeable and innovative makers in the 3D printer community, the question was “What if I try 3D printing a fully functional electric car?”
Makerblock Robotic Gripper
The involvement of the maker community in robotics has driven volumes up and prices down. For example, I was able to pickup this MakerBlock robot gripper in the MakerShed for USD$ 29.99. Utilizing a single screw motor, the gripper can be user configured with 2 or 4 fingers and has a maximum opening dimension of 76mm. That wouldn’t have been possible, especially not at that price point, just a few short years ago before the maker movement really took hold.
Kazu Terasaki, famous for his walking iPhone and iPad YouTube videos as well as his innovative ROBO-ONE humanoid robot designs, demonstrated GlueMotor - a plug and play servo motor that attaches to a smart phone jack and enables you to control the motor movement with your finger. As a proof of concept, he had the system setup to monitor Twitter for specific hashtags, then it would plot the detected Tweets on a whiteboard using two GlueMotor servos. Terasaki sees a lot of application for this technique in rapid prototyping of new designs since all you need is a smartphone, GlueMotor, and some double-sided tape to start breadboarding your idea.
Nick Donaldson's Unique Hexapod
Nick Donaldson (Got Robots?) was a big hit driving Glider, a large and unique hexapod robot, all over Maker Faire. Donaldson, who probably has earned the largest number of gold medals of any competitor at RoboGames over the years, is also the creator of Cheeky Monkey (Dave the Funky Monkey) robot toy sold through Toys ‘R Us.
This week marks the official launch of Make: Volume 39 — Robotics, which drops on newsstands the 27th. Be sure to grab a copy at a retailer near you, or subscribe online right now and never miss another issue.
We are celebrating with five days of robot-related articles, pictures, videos, reviews and projects. Tune into this space for Robot Week!
Lem Fugitt is a senior advisor to Japanese, U.S., and European companies specializing in market development, international alliances, and technology partnerships. Living and working in Japan for 26 years has provided him with unique access to Asian robot research and development at all levels. In addition to his consulting practice, he publishes Robots Dreams and is a regular contributor to publications like ROBOT Magazine. Currently he has 15 humanoid robots at home, and the number is continuing to grow.