BEAM Robotics Philosophy

The idea is to improve robo-genetic stock through stratified competition and have an interesting time in the process. The science behind the idea stems from current concepts in artificial intelligence (AI), artificial life (ALife), evolutionary biology, and genetic algorithms. It seems that building large complex robots hasn't worked well, so why not try to evolve them from a lesser to a greater ability as mother nature has done with biologics? The problem is that such a concept requires self-reproducing robots which won't be possible to build (if at all) for years to come. A solution, however, is to view a human being as a robot's way of making another robot, to have an annual venue where experimenters can let their creations interact in real situations, and then watch as machine evolution occurs.

In other words, robogenetics through robobiologics.

The BEAM Robot Games is therefore not so much a series of technological competitions as a chance for robot enthusiasts to present their designs to each other, the press, and the public. It is an open forum for anyone who wants to get started in the field of Alife robotics to compete and compare. Any and every robot will be considered so long as it does not come exclusively from a kit or store. Robots of similar ability will be pitted against each other in graded competitions, but generally robots will be judged on sophistication of behavior, novelty of design, efficiency of power source, and quality of hardware innovation.

Basically, if you built it, we'd like to see it.

Everyone from grade-school closet mad-scientists to legitimate university sane-scientists can participate. The only key element is a fascination to see something that you've created move by itself and how it compares to others. This show will hopefully spark motivation in many fields of Science and Engineering, in all ages, genders, and for all purposes. At the Robot Games, bizarre ideas are encouraged, and new "life forms" can't help but emerge as time goes on.

One of the main aims of the Robot Games is to get more people interested in actual robotics rather than computer simulations. Thus BEAM, which stands for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics (amongst others) is a system founded by Mark W. Tilden while at the University of Waterloo (Canada) that allows first time enthusiasts to get started easily. By building one or more self-contained creatures, anyone can gain the confidence and ability to build a wider range of robotic devices, allowing them to compete in more challenging BEAM events, and advancing the evolutionary aspects of their robotic designs.

Building robots is difficult, so the BEAM games are designed as a forum where designers don't so much match wits against each other, but against the natural (and relentless) perversity of the physical universe. Life is hard, but Alife is harder (depending, of course, on what you like to build with).

These games feature an ever expanding number of formal competitions ranging in difficulty from simple to complex. To this end, this Guide contains competition rules, "get-started" instructions, background discussion into the new science of Artificial Life, and enough information for anybody who might want to run their own BEAM Robotic Games.

The 1995 BEAM Games consists of 14 events. As well, competitions are created on the fly as devices of like ability compete and display. Previous events along this line have been manipulator, robovision, and robodog events. So we can prepare judges and resources in advance, all competitors are asked to fill out the robot "behavior" section of the entrance form and more competitions will be run based on the variety of robots who do show up. Those in a class by themselves are still eligible for major awards, and everybody will be included in the subsequent BEAM Games portfolio, documentaries, and videos.

The Games stress innovation rather than competition. We don't demand that solutions be precisely engineered, rather we want to test how designs will perform in a general environment. Consequently, there will be special consideration for robots which run on solar power or are solar power assisted; self-contained Artificial Life forms rather than battery eating remotes. Such designs take into consideration environmental issues of battery wastage, reusable materials and technological waste (it's amazing to think that we take such efforts to recycle glass and cardboard, but think nothing of throwing away a VCR because it has a broken key). It is not essential that robot devices be solar, but as the raw materials (dead calculators, dead portable cassette players, dead radios, etc.) are so plentiful, designers can often make many BEAM like designs without spending any money at all, while also recycling dead electronics that would otherwise sit around until thrown out. Besides, it's neat to build a device which will move for years with no off switch. This Guide contains applications, plans, hints, background, and most BEAM competitions give bonuses for such designs.

All venues are open to the interested, young or old, so grab a soldering iron, raid the junk pile, and we'll see you there (and don't forget, a valid BEAM entry could also get you a mark in science, electronics, or any other related course).