When my kids and I walked into Michael Rosenblatt’s design space over the pedestrian mall on Boulder, Colorado’s Pearl Street last week, my first thought was, dang, these Atoms don’t look like much. I mean, how cool could a couple mini-Snickers-sized colored boxes, a battery pack and a handful of plug-in wires be? What I really wanted to do was get my hands on all the other, flashier robotics ringing the room, like the homespun servo-powered Imperial Walker and some bug-like Lego-based thing that sprouted wires like an evil, Mad Max sea anemone. Now that stuff looked radical.
And then Michael along with his estimable iOS guru, David Allen, started plugging in wires, strapping Atoms to Lego and wood and plastic constructions, and it quickly became apparent that the only thing limiting their use was my lack of imagination. See, Atoms are sensors and motors — you make something and an Atom makes it go. For the most basic example, take the little rover Michael made by strapping a motor connected to an accelerometer to a Lego car so that it drove forward and backward with the tilt of the sensor. Don’t like the wire? Drive the rover with the accompanying iOS app by Allen.