Mind / Iron
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by Michael Simpson
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Last year, I built a walker robot
for the Robot Fest. I christened this
robot “Face Walker.” It was featured
in the August, September, and
October issues of SERVO Magazine.
My goal was to create a robot that
would catch the attention of the
spectators and hold their interest
while I gave my presentation. I
had a nice little speech all planned.
What I had not planned on was the
What actually happened was that
the spectators were so enthralled by
the look of Face Walker, that they
didn’t hear a word I said. Many
individuals left only to return with
friends or family members. What is
it that made the Face Walker so
awe-inspiring? The Face Walker had
what I now call the freak factor.
I had a chance to review videos
that were taken of the spectators
while they were watching the Face
Walker in action. Almost all of them
were watching the face. The face
would animate and make noises as
the robot would move. Individuals
saw this walker robot thingy that
looked something like a spider, but as
it turned to face them, it would wink
or say something. Immediately they
would smile and point. It is when we
start to add human characteristics to
machines that we start to evoke
emotions, which can range from
amazement to outright fear.
So, I created a really cool robot,
but what can it do? This is the kind
of question I often get when
showing walker robots. The power
requirements for a fully articulated
walker are massive. In many cases,
you have 12-24 servos that are all
energized at once.
The Face Walker always had to
have three legs in contact with the
ground at any one time to support
the total weight of the robot. Even
when standing still, a walker will use
large amounts of power. This is not
true with a wheel-based robot.
The 7.2V 3,000 mAh battery
pack would power the Face Walker
base for about five minutes before it
needed an hour charge. On a
wheeled robot of the same weight,
you get over an hour of run time on
the same battery. This makes walkers
very inefficient for most tasks.
However, when it comes to education
or studying the human condition, you
can’t beat a walker.
In order to top last year’s Robot
Fest, I have started early on my next
robot exhibit. This robot will be a
biped walker with 19 servos
controlling various limbs, as well as
the neck. Let’s call him Kronos.
Kronos is still in the experimental
stage but while he is in the
sitting position, I added a random
movement generator and created
some routines to simulate breathing.
The bot’s chest would simply move in
rhythm and the head would turn
slightly at random intervals.
This was freaky enough, but I
wanted to take it a step further and
added some random fidget
movements. He started moving his
arms or would change the angle of
his legs as though he was trying to
get comfortable. Let me tell you,
this even freaked me out. Is it
memories of Chucky or is it that
we just are not used to human
attributes on a mechanical device?
VP OF SALES/MARKETING
Jeff Eckert Tom Carroll
Gordon McComb David Geer
Pete Miles Kevin Berry
Dave Calkins Bryan Bergeron
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Dennis Hong R. Steven Rainwater
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Monty Reed Lawrence Feir
Michael Simpson Gerard Fonte
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Aaron Taggart Brian Benson
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Copyright 2007 by
T & L Publications, Inc.
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6 SERVO 01.2007