THE HOME-MADE HUMANOID ROBOT
Take a pair of hi-fi speakers, an old radio, a couple of DVD players and countless other household appliances, apply some ingenuity and what do you get?
If you’re Mark Haywood, an ex-cop turned robot maker, you get HEX — a four foot, three-inch tall humanoid robot.
“Frankly, I think of it as a very large toy. I think that mindset helped me get the build done, because it’s such a daunting task,” said Haygood.
Four years in the making, it’s been as much art project as engineering feat, he says, requiring the visualization of the various body parts.
“The legs are made from outdoor speakers — they’re gorgeous. His shoulders are made from fans, his forearms from power tools. The chest and back are made from kid’s riding toys and his head is a clock radio. I also employed a 3-D printer for the hands.
The self-taught roboticist has drawn inspiration from Honda’s ASIMO robot and Drexel University’s HUBO as well as sounding out opinion at his local Hackespace Assembling HEX has cost the proverbial arm and a leg — “tens of thousands of dollars,” says Haygood — and is controlled remotely using a Zigbee USB dongle attached to his laptop.
“He can step unsupported, but it’s not completely stable — I have a slight problem with joint compliance at the moment. But his hands are fully functional, his legs are functional and he has 23 degrees of freedom.”
It’s all a far cry from Haygood’s previous life as a police officer — serving the Baltimore Police Department for over two decades before retiring in 2006.
“I really enjoyed being a cop … I wanted to go out and lock up the bad guys and that’s what I did. But policing completely takes over your life. That’s one of the reasons I got out,” he says.
The death of his father three years later prompted Haygood to re-evaluate his life and in looking for a new path he turned back to an old passion.