Light-Tracking BEAM Robot Can See The Light

BEAM robotics, which stands for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics, is an ethos that focuses on building robots with simple analog circuits. [NanoRobotGeek] built a great example of the form, creating a light-tracking robot that uses no batteries and no microcontrollers.

The robot aims to track the brightest source of light it can see. This is achieved by feeding signals from four photodiodes into some analog logic, which then spits out voltages to the two motors that aim the robot, guiding it towards the light. There’s also a sound-detection circuit, which prompts the robot to wiggle when it detects a whistle via an attached microphone.

The entire circuitry is free-formed using brass wire, and the result is an incredibly artful build. Displayed in a bell jar, the build looks like some delicate artifact blending the past and future. Neither steampunk nor cyberpunk, it draws from both with its combination of vintage brass and modern LEDs.

It’s a great build that reminds us of some of the great circuit sculptures we’ve seen lately. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Adrian for the tip!]

14 thoughts on “Light-Tracking BEAM Robot Can See The Light

  1. I am finally early enough to participate in the discussion about one of my builds! Love the “neither steampunk nor cyberpunk” comment because I feel the same and have never referred to it as either but with all the brass and that bell jar it certainly came out looking somethingpunk!

  2. BEAM bots are always such fun projects and this one looks very well executed. Has anyone every expanded on the ideas of their analog control circuitry ans built more complex systems with it ?

    1. They’re mostly based on networks of coupled oscillators, which brings up a lot of research papers proposing to use it for general computation. Nothing practical has come out of it yet.

      1. Dude is right, I was planning to look into the literature properly when I get a break from university but from what I recall, everything ended when they couldn’t figure out a good way to approach memory. Can’t imagine BEAM being relevant for anything, this is all just for fun for me. But this is my first foray into more complex BEAM circuits so maybe I will keep going……. or maybe not because tuning analog circuits built around components not designed for analog voltages suuuuuuucks

  3. If he keeps up blocking its light like that, it might become angry, (it appears to be quite agitated when he does it), and someday it may rise up against him!

    1. Hahah, I know its just a joke but this comment resonates more with me than you know. It really does seem like it has a personality hey, and for being such a bloody simple circuit I think that is pretty neat.

    1. Thank you =) this project definitely warranted pictures, cant imagine how I would have got any of the build across in a video. No name but I do call it a “he”, maybe one day a name will come.

    1. I have no plans to make a kit unfortunately. It is such a finicky circuit to get right, even if I made a kit I reckon it would still take a lot of tinkering to get working right. You are not the first person to ask so maybe one day if I ever get some time!

      1. Great project, “mechanically” beautiful (see “solarpunk” and “beampunk” comments) and electrically elegant! I can see that you come from the “electrical side”, because I found your instructions on Instructables where you go into lots of details and photos about the mechanical design, but the description of the electronics is somehow lacking the specifics for guys like me coming from the “mechanical side”, not knowing how to translate your circuit diagrams into specific ICs etc. I understand your hesitation as to make a kit, but how about adding just circuit diagrams for the basic functionalities like power supply and the sensor-motor controller which would enable a reproduction without lots of testing and adjustments? I am sure lots of admiring fans would appreciate that – you sure could count on me!

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