reinforced roof to avoid sagging, a ventilation system to
remove nasty fumes, and some metal I-beam bumpers with
teeth! The hinged bumpers at the entrances require an air
compressor to lift and open the 100 pound doorways. As
promised, double one inch polycarbonate sheets ring the
lower half of the arena for extra protection. This house of
pain will take on lots of flying shrapnel over the next few
years. Also notable is the power of a noisy robot. When
Curt Meyers cranks up the lawnmower engine on the “Jaws
of Death” — a 340 pound class crab-like behemoth — kids
from all over the cavernous Ft. Mason Festival Pavillion stop
what they are doing and run to the COMBOT arena. Even
from inside the arena, the sound of “Jaws of Death” excites
and thrills the entire crowd.
A confluence of energies power this event: close proximity
to the technical prowess of Silicon Valley, a truly international
participation, frank and open collaboration between builders,
and energetic volunteer support of the local community ...
especially from the radical Burning Man art scene
www.burningman.com). Where else would you see
T-shirt wearing geeks mingle with the leather and fur clad
burners? It ends up that a lot of burners are closet geeks,
and more than a few of them bring their bots to the show.
Case in point: the Orb Swarm (
Three beautiful spheres, each about three feet in diameter,
rolled around the games in a seemingly random manner,
thrilling children and adults. In reality, the bots — created by
Michael Prados and a team of robo-burners — are very sophisticated, as well as beautiful moving works of art. Looking
through the metal weave pattern of the sphere, you can see
a heavy battery pack acting as a reactive ballast. A drive motor
spins the shell against the ballast, causing the orb to roll. A
steering motor tilts the ballast, allowing the orb to steer. The
brains are a 200 MIPS Linux ARM processor with GPS and
MEMS accelerometers and yaw rate gyros for navigation and
steering. Multi-color LED lights appear to flicker as the orb
rolls. Over a dozen random sounds play from speakers attached
to the top of the motor. At RoboGames, the swarm was
>> Jaws of Death.
>> Baby and mom watching
the Orb Swarm.
>> Last Rites vs R2-D2.
Photo courtesy of Chris James.
>> A family
SERVO 10.2008 57