I’ve been called a cross between Jimmy Buffett and Albert Einstein. As a lifelong fan of all types of gadgets mechanical and electronic, I founded Florida Robotics in 1993 with my wife, Fay. Most of our products have been mobile entertainment robots designed to interact with observers, like a robot that moves via voice command and a drink-serving robot that can roll in the sand.
After seeing a medical robot on TV, deciding to build the OpBot — a giant robotic version of the popular board game Operation — was a natural progression for me. In a world where virtually every kid has a sophisticated HD digital game in his pocket, I think many people never get the chance to see and operate an actual mechanical robot with gears whining and motors buzzing. Since OpBot’s movements are achieved by mechanical and electrical contacts, it provides an element of realism that can’t quite be duplicated in the virtual word.
Building OpBot was pretty simple, as Florida Robotics routinely uses off-the-shelf components. It only took a few months to complete. The robotic arm is clunky and whimsical, and while outwardly it looks like a bunch of surplus junk assembled by a Rube Goldberg wannabe (it is), the actual working parts are quite reliable. It’s precisely controlled by a simple and versatile Basic Stamp 2, and with clever programming, OpBot seems to have a personality that challenges the wits of any avid video gamer.
And since this is a 21st century version of Operation, I decided to update the patient’s maladies to fit modern ailments. Forget spare ribs and butterflies in the stomach — OpBot’s patient is suffering from a sore texting thumb, iPod ears, and a chip on his shoulder.