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Picture it: A giant supermarket claw machine, but instead of a metal hand with a frustratingly weak grip, it’s a real-life chainsaw. In place of stuffed animals, there are stumps of wood on the cutting floor, ready for ripping.

fig-3 smallMontreal thinker-maker Morgan Rauscher built just such a machine, called Art-Bot. “I made Art-Bot to try to expand the hand with a cybernetic perceptual-prosthetic,” Rauscher explains. Suspended inside the polycarbonate acoustic-deflection chamber is an 8-foot-long Arduino-controlled robotic arm built from recycled bicycle components. The user controls the arm with playful arcade game buttons on an external dashboard. A haptic-vibrotactile force feedback system lets the user “feel” the material that the robot touches.

Built in an impressive window of just two months, Rauscher considered many different tools for Art-Bot before settling on a chainsaw. The original plan combined an axe and a chainsaw to form “a kind of hyperactive axe tool thing,” but the kickback from the ax’s chopping motion forced the arm out of alignment, so that plan was nixed. “Basically, the tool was too badass for the arm,” he jokes.

Rauscher’s favorite reaction to Art-Bot? “Seeing the anticipation in the eyes of the children as they line up to use it — and then seeing their eyes open wider when they get the chance to control it.”

Read more about how Rauscher built Art-Bot.

Laura Cochrane

I’m an editor at MAKE and CRAFT. I like hiking, biking, and etymology.


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