Robots, Androids and Animatrons, Second Edition : 12 Incredible Projects You Can Build

Robots, Androids and Animatrons, Second Edition : 12 Incredible Projects You Can Build

by John Iovine


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Robots, Androids and Animatrons, Second Edition : 12 Incredible Projects You Can Build by John Iovine

Bring a robot to life without programming or assembly language skills!

There’s never been a better time to explore the world of the nearly human. With the complete directions supplied by popular electronics author John Iovine, you can:

• Build your first walking, talking, sensing, thinking robot
• Create 12 working robotic projects, using the fully illustrated instructions provided
• Get the best available introduction to robotics, motion control, sensors, and neural intelligence
• Put together basic modules to build sophisticated ‘bots of your own design
• Construct a robotic arm that responds to your spoken commands
• Build a realistic, functional robotic hand
• Apply sensors to detect bumps, walls, inclines , and roads
• Give your robot expertise and neural intelligence

You geteverything you need to create 12 exciting robotic projects using off-the-shelf products and workshop-built devices, including a complete parts list. Also ideal for anyone interested in electronic and motion control, this cult classic gives you the building blocks you need to go practically anywhere in robotics.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780071376839
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date: 10/29/2001
Edition description: REV
Pages: 270
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.98(d)

About the Author

John Iovine is the author of several popular TAB titles that explore the frontiers of scientific research. He has written Homemade Holograms: The Complete Guide to Inexpensive, Do-It-Yourself Holography; Kirlian Photography: A Hands-On Guide; Fantastic Electronics: Build Your Own Negative-Ion Generator and Other Projects; and A Step into Virtual Reality. He is also the “Amazing Science” columnist for Poptronics magazine.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: In The Beginning

THE ORIGIN OF ROBOTICS CAN BE TRACED BACK TO THE ancient Greeks, who created movable statues. Around 270 BC, Ctesibus (a Greek engineer) made organs and water clocks with movable figures.

In the 1770s, Pierre Jacquet-Droz, a Swiss clock maker and inventor of the wrist watch, created three ingenious mechanical dolls. He made the dolls so that each one could perform a specific function: one could write, another could play music on an organ, and the third could draw a simple picture. As sophisticated as they were, the dolls performed all their respective feats using gears, cogs, pegs, and springs. Their purpose was to amuse royalty.

More recently, in 1898, Nikola Tesla built a radio-controlled submersible boat. This was no small feat in 1898. The submersible was demonstrated in Madison Square Garden. Although Nikola Tesla had plans to make the boat autonomus, lack of funding prevented further research.

The word robot was first used in a 1921 play titled R. U. R. Rossum's Universal Robots by Czechoslovakian writer Karel Capek. The word robot is a Czech word for workers. The play described mechanical servants, the "robots." When the robots were endowed with emotion, they turned on their masters and destroyed them.

Historically, we have sought to endow human abilities and attributes into inanimate objects that resemble the human form. From this is derived the word anthrobots, creating robots in human form.

In times since, robots have become a staple in many science fiction stories and movies. As robots evolved, so did the terminology needed to describe the different robotic forms. So in addition to the old "tin-man" robot, we also havecyborgs, which are part human and part machine, and androids which are specially built robots designed to be humanlike.

Many people had their first look at a real robot during the 1939 World's Fair. Westinghouse Electric built a robot they called Elektro the Moto Man. Although Electro had motors and gears to move his mouth, arms, and hands, it could not perform any useful work. He was joined on stage by a mechanical dog named Sparko.

Why build robots?

Robots are indispensable in some manufacturing industries. The reason is because the cost per hour to operate a robot is a fraction of what human labor would cost to perform the same function. More than this, once programmed, robots can produce a highly repeatable accuracy that surpasses the most experienced human operator. However, human operators are far more versatile. Humans can switch job tasks easily. Robots are job specific. You wouldn't be able to program a welding robot to start counting parts in a bin.

Today's most advanced robots are really contemporary robotic dinosaurs. Robots are in their infancy stage of evolution. As robots evolve that will become more versatile, emulating the human capacity and ability to switch job tasks easily.

While the personal computer has made an indelible mark in society, the personal robot hasn't made an appearance. Obviously there's more to a personal robot than a personal computer. Robots require a combination of elements to be effective: sophistication of intelligence, movement, mobility, navigation, and purpose.


In the beginning, personal robots will focus on a single function (job task) or purpose. For instance, today there are small, mobile robots that can autonomously maintain a lawn by cutting the grass. These robots are solar powered and don't require any training. Underground wires are placed around the lawn perimeter. The robots sense the wire, remain within the defined perimeter, and don't wander off.

Building a useful personal robot is difficult. It's beyond the scope of this book, or for that matter, of any other contemporary book on robotics. So you may ask, "What's the purpose of this book?" Well, in reading this book and building a few robots, you will become part of the ongoing robotics evolution.

Creativity and innovation do not require a degree. Robot building is not restricted to Ph.Ds., college universities, professors, and industrial giants. By playing and experimenting with robots, you can learn many aspects of robotics: artificial intelligence, neural networks, usefulness and purpose, sensors, navigation, articulated limbs, etc. The potential here is to make a contribution to the body of knowledge existing on robotics. And to this end, amateur robotics is making tremendous strides forward, in some cases using a clever design to surpass mainstream robotics development.

As the saying goes,_ look before you leap. When designing a robot, the first question to ask is, "What is the purpose of this robot?" What will it do and how will it accomplish its task? My dream is to build a small robot that will change my cat's litter box when it needs changing.

This book provides tools: sensors, drive systems, neural nets, and microcontrollers that you can use to build your own robot. Before we begin to build, let's look at some current applications and how robots may be used in the future. The most sophisticated robots today are built by NASA and the U.S. military. NASA's main interest in robotics involves space exploration and telepresence. The military, on the other hand, uses the technology in warfare.


NASA routinely sends unmanned robotic explorers where it is impossible to send human explorers. Why send robots instead of humans? Economics. It's much cheaper to send an expendable robot than a human. Humans require an enormous support system to function: breathable atmosphere, food, heat, living quarters, and, quite frankly, most want to live through the experience and return to Earth in their lifetime.

Explorer spacecraft travel through the solar system, where their electronic eyes transmit back to Earth fascinating pictures of the planets and their moons. The Viking probes sent to Mars looked for life and sent back pictures of the Martian landscape. NASA is developing planetary rovers, space probes, spider-legged walking explorers, and underwater rovers, NASA has the most advanced telerobotic program in the world, operating under the Office of Space Access and Technology (OSAT).

NASA estimates that by the year 2004, 50% of extra vehicle activity (EVA) will be conducted through the use of telerobotics...

Table of Contents



1: In the beginning

2: Artificial life and artificial intelligence

3: Power

4: Movement and drive systems

5: Sensors

6: Intelligence

7: Speech-controlled mobile robot

8: Behavioral-based robotics, neural networks, nervous nets, and subsumption architecture

9: Telepresence robot

10: Mobile platforms

11: Walker robots

12: Solar-ball robot

13: Underwater bots

14: Aerobots

15: Robotic arm and IBM PC interface and speech control

16: Android hand





There are many interesting and fun things to do in electronics, and one of the most enjoyable is building robots. Not only do you employ electronic circuits and systems, but they must be merged with other technologies. Building a robot from scratch involves the following:
  • Power supply systems
  • Motors and gears for drive and motion control
  • Sensors
  • Artificial intelligence
Each one of these technologies has numerous books dedicated to its study. Naturally, a comprehensive look at each technology isn't possible in one book, but we will touch upon these areas, and you will gain hands-on knowledge and a springboard for future experimentation.

Robotics is an evolving technology. There are many approaches to building robots, and no one can be sure which method or technology will be used 100 years from now. Like biological systems, robotics is evolving following the Darwinian model of survival of the fittest.

You're not alone when you become a robotist. I was surprised to learn that there are many people, government organizations, private organizations, competitions, and clubs devoted to the subject of amateur robotics. NASA has the most advanced robotics systems program I ever saw. Much of the information is free for the asking. If you have Internet access, jump to one of the search engines (Yahoo, Excite, etc.) and search under robotics. You will find the websites of many companies, individuals, universities, clubs, and newsgroups dedicated to robotics.

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