Founder interviews, pre-release product design, hand crafted inventions.
Get the digest of our best ones, straight in your inbox. Every month.
Founder interviews, pre-release product design, hand crafted inventions.
Get the digest of our best ones, straight in your inbox. Every month.

Whatever Happened to BEAM Robots

Techmog is a liquid network of engineers, programmers, designers and entrepreneurs in and around London who report on the industry we work in, from an insider's view. We're always looking for Londoners with something interesting to say. Send an email to info@techmog.com if you would like to contribute to the website.

Peter Bailey

Freelance Wordpress Developer in London (peabay.xyz) @peabay
Share on Google+
Post to Reddit
Share on Linkedin
Sponsored by
HonestBrew
HonestBrew has kindly sponsored this post. Discover the best beers from around the world, delivered to your door. Join today & receive a Taster Kit for half price.

Check out: Arduino Day 2015

Overshadowed by their intellectual Arduino superiors are the BEAM robots. These plucky bots are governed by three laws – to extract power from radiation, to recycle and to be simple. Their form derives from their function and circuitry is strictly analogue. They are [probably] the simplest robots about.

British-born robotics physicist Mark Tilden is the brain behind them, designing the first in 1988 after being inspired by a talk by Rodney Brooks about robotic intelligence. It was known as The Solaroller. The clever design incorporated a solar panel, a capacitor and a motor. To save on weight no chassis or PCB was used, instead wire twisted around each other and components bent into appropriate positions.

4355019901_cf2d6384fc_o

A solar panel alone is unable to generate enough power for the motor in a design like this, so Mark added a capacitor; a component similar to a battery. The solar panel charges the capacitor and after a few seconds the capacitor forces a belch of electricity into the motor, propelling the whole thing forward.

Since the Solaroller BEAM robots have multiplied and evolved into a range of bizarre creatures. A notable improvement is the incorporation of sensors, letting the robots react to their surroundings. A second motor and LED’s were added to the design. Light Emitting Diodes, when inverted, change function and work similarly to Light Dependent Resistors. With some clever schematic design Mark was able to build a robot which could calculate the direction of the brightest light source and then move towards it, all without a microprocessor.

Sadly support for the bots seems to have dwindled and their parts sold for motor oil, but you can still grab yourself all sorts of BEAM kits at Solarbotics.

Posted 11th Jun 2013
Share on Google+
Post to Reddit
Share on Linkedin
Sponsored by
HonestBrew

Comments

  • Hudson LEE

    Hi… Where can I find someone who can help build some life changing robots, wheel based. Rgds Skype: hudson.lee1

  • Solarbotics

    Well, thanks for the memories! We’re still around, but after SB acquired HVW Technologies at the cusp of the introduction of Arduino, we were immersed in microcontroller methods. uC’s have only become cheap and easier to use, but we’re still finding there’s a love for elegant analog electronics that is simply harder to emulate in digital than to build in analog.

    We’re still here, we’re still alive, we haven’t forgot BEAM. Stay tuned… pick and place machines are our friends!