6 Awesome Robots at World Maker Faire
October 06, 2016      

I attended World Maker Faire in New York City over the weekend. I live in Florida, so this was a rather long trip, but it was definitely worth it after seeing all of the interesting robots and people in attendance. The drone racing tournament was also a definite highlight.

If you’re interested in the intersection of robotics and DIY pursuits, this is a great show to attend. Here are just a few of the amazing robots from World Maker Faire.

Digital Manufacturing

At any event like World Maker Faire, digital manufacturing tools, most notably 3D printers, are at the forefront. There were also a variety of laser cutters, engravers, and more “normal” computer-controlled cutting tools.

I’d love to get my hands on any of them, but perhaps the coolest one there, especially from a robotics standpoint, was the Shaper Origin. Using a vision system and tape with tracking symbols embedded in it, this hand tool maps out the wood (or other relatively soft material you’ll be cutting) and allows you to cut precise shapes by hand, using what looks like a handheld router with a display attached.

When you move the router along the wood in a pre-determined path, the display tells you approximately where to move, and a system inside moves the bit to correct any imprecision on your part. It can evenly cut parts of shapes automatically, if they fall within its zone of correction.

Besides the tape, one disadvantage is that unlike a traditional CNC machine, an operator has to physically hold the tool. But considering it’s “limitless” work envelope and compact size, it’s still an amazing machine.

Shaper OriginShaper Origin

Robot Arms

Perhaps robot arms weren’t what you thought of as robots while growing up, or when watching science fiction, but there’s a good chance that’s what you’ll see when you step into any advanced manufacturing facility. There were several arms on display at World Maker Faire, including a rather large one named “Tobor the Great” disguised as a dinosaur.

Tobor the Great“Tobor the Great” robot arm.

A much smaller robot that caught my attention was the 7Bot arm that was controlled by a tiny Onion Linux computer. The arm was programmed to mimic a smartphone’s movement via the phone’s built-in accelerometer, which was certainly interesting.

7Bot Robot Arm7Bot arm

Another robot arm on display was called uArm. At maybe a foot tall, the look was very similar to the 7Bot, and several were on display at UFACTORY’s booth. They even had one with a laser mounted to it.

uArm dragged this laser around a field of light-reactive paint based on the position of pucks on a surface above it to create a very simple picture. A human could manipulate the position of these pucks to change the robot’s pattern via a vision system.

Educational Robots

There were two FIRST school robotics competitions going on, one where robots would aim a ball at a castle tower and shoot at it. The other was perhaps more in line with serious robots, and was doing what appeared to be a sorting operation with large and small balls and cubes.

Robots at Maker Faire

Although perhaps not as directly school-focused, there was also an interesting robotics system know an PiStorms that integrates the popular Raspberry Pi computer and LEGO Mindstorms building system. The robot reacted to what a human did, sometimes acting frightened, as seen below. The unit beside it was able to recognize faces and put a cartoon face over mine. Naturally, it lost the facial lock when I tried to photograph it with the viewfinder directly over my eyes.

PiStorms Robot