PC-BOT PLATFORM can be customized with PC accessories, allowing the basic 912 model (left) to be transformed into a DVD-playing 912 MP3 (center) or a 912 HMV security rover (right). Image: THOMAS J. BURICK White Box Robotics
"Could this be the place?" I wonder as I stand before a nondescript storefront, formerly a tattoo parlor, in the tiny borough of Youngwood, Pa. The windows are covered by blinds; the door bears forbidding bars. The building lacks a sign or even a house number. It seems an odd location from which to launch an ambitious new species of robot.
But when Thomas J. Burick opens the door and I see three prototype "PC-Bots" sitting on his small workbench, I realize that this 34-year-old entrepreneur is no ordinary inventor. The half-meter-high robots look like R2-D2 droids that have been redesigned by Cadillac. Burick says that he spent a year honing their appearance, something almost unheard of in serious robotics, where function usually trumps form.
This article was originally published with the title Plug-and-Play Robots.