At Maker Faire this weekend in San Mateo, Calif., do-it-yourself robotics will be one of the two biggest genres of projects on display. At least 24 different individuals and groups will be on hand, showing off their work. But DIY robotics is also making its way into the mainstream these days, and it has many manifestations.
One interesting type of DIY robot is the so-called "cocktail robot," and this explosive blender is geared to make fruity drinks on command. Cocktail robots are the specialty of an international series of events known as Roboexotica.
Caption:CNET Reviews staffPhoto:David Calkins
Wall-E Builders Group
One of the largest DIY robotics groups on the planet is the Wall-E Builders Group, which boasts more than 3,000 members from around the world. Members of the group, some of whom will be at Maker Faire this weekend, focus on creating homemade replicas of the robot characters from Pixar's Oscar-winning 2008 hit, "Wall-E."
Editors' note: This caption has been corrected. Due to incorrect information from a source, it misstated membership figures for the Wall-E Builders Group. The group has just more than 3,000 members worldwide.
Updated:Caption:CNET Reviews staffPhoto:Wall-E Builders Group
A hit at past events, and expected on display at Maker Faire this weekend, is Swarm, a group of semiautonomous robots that are set in motion by a human wielding an Xbox-like controller.
Another large DIY robotics community, and a big inspiration for the Wall-E Builders Group, is made up of people who have created almost perfect replicas of R2-D2 and related droids from the "Star Wars" universe.
One of the reasons behind the emergence of a nearly mainstream DIY robotics movement--or at least one that could be behind such an emergence, if the movement truly does go mainstream--is the proliferation of easy-to-use robotics kits.
This one, created by Phillip Torrone, a senior editor at Make magazine, is expected to cost about $70 when it hits the market. It will have many possible functions, including being bump-sensitive or even color-sensitive.
Torrone (and partner in crime Limor Fried) was also responsible for Roomba Frogger, a hacked Roomba vacuum cleaner that was designed to scuttle back and forth across a downtown Austin, Texas, street, a la the Frogger video game, during the 2006 South by Southwest Interactive festival.
In addition to being the editor in chief of Wired magazine and the author of "The Long Tail," Chris Anderson is also a big fan of DIY robotics. Here, Anderson is seen at a past Maker Faire talking about the remote-controlled robotic airplane he and his kids made using Lego's Mindstorms robotics platform.
At Maker Faire this year, Anderson will be on hand to talk about the latest iteration of the airplane project, a semiautonomous drone on which he and his kids are working.
Anderson's new project will also be featured on the cover of the August issue of Make magazine, which will be focused on DIY robotics.
A favorite of Maker Faire attendees since 2006--and originally unveiled at Burning Man 2005--Lindsay Lawlor's Rave 'Raff is a robot giraffe studded with LEDs, a sound system, and the infrastructure to walk on level ground at a few miles an hour. The giraffe will return to Maker Faire this weekend.
One of the most popular celebrations of DIY robotics, or hobby robotics, is the RoboGames, which pit dueling machines against each other in gear-splitting battle. A subevent of RoboGames is called RoboMagellan, in which hobbyists must work on robots that can autonomously (using GPS technology) navigate an obstacle course.
The robot pictured here is an entrant in a past RoboMagellan event, which has been called the DARPA Grand Challenge for DIY robots.