Our top prizewinner spent years dreaming of the perfect way to crush cars by hand. In 2007 Christian Ristow, an artist and former animatronics designer for the movie industry, demonstrated his first working incarnation of the Hand of Man at a robotics festival in Amsterdam. Much of his time since then has been spent re-engineering and refining the design of the 27-foot-long hydraulically actuated appendage, exhibiting more and more capable crushers at a series of public venues. Ristow's latest mechanical steel limb has 90-degree wrist rotation and improved mobility in the finger joints. It is powered by a 90-hp Perkins 1104C-44T four-cylinder diesel engine and is controlled through a glove worn by the operator. At demonstrations, that operator is usually a random member of the audience. "I've built other large-scale radio-control robots for shows over the years, but I always felt like I was the one having the most fun, " Ristow says. "This democratizes the crushing power."
Man Behind the Machine
I-Wei Huang animates video games for a living, but he spends his free time animating metal and plastic. His first creations were a series of steam-powered remote-control machines, including mini tanks, a rowboat and a version of Star Wars' R2-D2 that Huang named R2-S2 (the S is for steam). But after more than 20 steambots, Huang changed direction to create mechanical creatures of a totally different character. "Coming from the animation background, I wanted something with personality that I could bring to life, " he says. Huang's more recent creations, called SwashBots, are built around parts that control the pitch of R/C helicopter blades. The minimalist robots run on AA batteries and have three servomotors to control the legs and a fourth to move the head. The stutter-stepping little bots squeeze maximum charm out of minimum complexity.