Engineer and YouTuber Mark Rober made a robot that can make murals out of dominoes really fast. He posted a YouTube video to show what his latest creation can do — the robot, called the “Dominator” (the team sometimes affectionately calls it “Dom”), arranged 100,000 dominoes to create a Super Mario Bros themed mural, and it finished in a little over 24 hours.
According to Rober, a mural like that would take a week to build for a team of seven skilled builders.
In the YouTube video, Rober explained that the Dominator’s current version is the result of years of hard work from him and a team of three other people — two freshmen from Stanford University and a software engineer from the Bay Area.
Using a combination of 3D-printed funnels and a Connect Four-type filter, the Dominator does its work by putting down 300 dominoes simultaneously. To be able to navigate around its environment, Mark Rober and his team designed the Dominator with GPS sensors and infrared cameras that track markers placed on the ground so that it can keep laying down dominoes even in the dark.
The dominoes are loaded onto the Dominator using another robot. Rober explained in the video that the robot “loading station” loads the dominoes by color using conveyor belts and a robotic arm picks up the pieces and places each into one of three hundred loading chutes, which were made using 2.7 miles worth of Hot Wheels tracks. The loading station bot continuously grabs dominoes and sorts them into the loading chutes so that it won’t take long to reload the Dominator.
The Dominator is not Rober’s first invention. A former NASA engineer, he has designed plenty of other inventions — a device that sprays glitter at package thieves, a gigantic Super Soaker water gun, a dartboard that tracks darts, and a basketball hoop that moves.
Rober only briefly shared the details on how the robot was designed, but for those interested to learn more about it, the team made a series of blog posts to further explain the work that was put into designing and making the Dominator — how the idea was brainstormed, how it progressed from idea, to prototype, to robot, how the Dominator’s hardware and software work, and more.
The YouTube video included a brief timelapse of the Dominator as it created the Super Mario Bros mural, and of course, the most satisfying part of domino art videos — the moment all 100,000 dominoes are knocked down.
The Dominator set a Guinness World Record for managing to place 100,000 dominoes in a little over 24 hours.
As part of the test run for the Dominator, Mark Rober challenged domino artist and YouTuber Lily Hevesh (also known as the “Domino Queen”) to be the Dominator’s human opponent to see how a person skilled in laying down dominoes fares against a robot that’s designed to do the same. You can watch the challenge in a YouTube video posted by Hevesh.
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