Amazing Robots Arise From Junk
FIGURE 3. Daniel Muszka’s Katicabogár.
and improved upon his work. (I covered
Grey Walter’s turtles in more detail in my
October ‘05 column.)
One of the most noteworthy experimental robots to
follow the pattern of Walter’s work was the Electronic
Ladybird or, as others called it, a ladybug. It was built by
Dániel Muszka and László Kalmár at Szeged University,
Hungary. A replica of the original is shown in Figure 3.
Note the differences between Walter’s robot and the
newer ladybird robot — especially the complexity shown in
Figure 4. The cybernetic animal is now on display at the
Informatika Történeti Múzeum Alapítvány at Szeged,
Hungary. The robot is 60 cm or almost 24 inches long, 16
inches wide, and 10 inches high, and is painted with red
FIGURE 5. Power-hungry tubes draw power.
FIGURE 4. Ladybird’s insides (in 1957).
and black dots like a ladybird beetle. The seven black dots
on its shell are touch-sensitive switches. The robot is
powered externally by a 240 VAC power cord trailing out
the back as the tubes in later models drew too much power
to use a battery-powered system like the original model.
Figure 5 shows the tube’s filaments brightly glowing.
The ladybird robot was built to model conditioned
reflexes, much the same as Walter’s turtle almost a decade
earlier. The robot was also phototropic and could sense
light from a flashlight, sounds from a whistle, and touching
on the various black dot switches. The ‘eyes’ were just red
lights but three light sensors were at the front of the robot:
one centered between the eyes, and two just outside the
black face. Depending on which light sensor was
illuminated by an external source determined whether the
robot continued straight ahead or turned to the right or
left. A microphone mounted on the shell sensed a whistle
to command starting and stopping. As with many of the
older one-of-a-kind classic robots, the electronic ladybird
suffered some mishandling by a museum and its original
papier mâché shell was damaged beyond repair, so a new
fiberglass shell was made. The internal motors and circuitry
are the original components, however. In 2004, a modern
reproduction was made, more or less the same externally,
but nothing like the original on the inside. Though complex-appearing due to the large components, the robot was
basically a simple electronic device. There are only seven
vacuum tubes (compared to only two in Walter’s turtle),
three crystal diodes, three photoelectric cells, one
microphone, and just two motors in the robot.
The primary operational stimulus/response is to locate
a light source and home in on it. As it is in its random
search pattern, the Coccinella (as it is sometimes called)
78 SERVO 02.2011