: Hong Kong man builds life-sized humanoid robot from scratch
Tech&Science19:05 Apr. 1, 2016

Hong Kong man builds life-sized humanoid robot from scratch

Product and graphic designer spends USD 50,000 on realising his childhood dream

Like many children, Hong Kong product and graphic designer Ricky Ma grew up watching cartoons featuring the adventures of robots, and dreamed of one day building his own.

Unlike most, however, Ma has realised his childhood dream at the age of 42, by successfully constructing a life-sized robot from scratch on the balcony of his home.

The fruit of his labours of a year-and-a-half, and a budget of more than USD 50,000, is a female robot prototype he calls the Mark 1. It's modelled after a Hollywood star whose name he won't say. It responds to a set of programmed verbal commands spoken into a microphone.

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But Ma's journey of creation was a lonely one. He says he did not know anyone who builds humanoid robots as a hobby and few in the city understood his ambition.

Ricky Ma, product and graphic designer: "When I was a child, I liked robots. Why? Because I liked watching animation. All children loved it. There were Transformers, cartoons about robots fighting each other and games about robots. After I grew up, I wanted to make one. But during this process, a lot of people would say things like, 'Are you stupid? This takes a lot of money. Do you even know how to do it? It's really hard.'"

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Besides simple movements of its arms and legs Ma's robot can form detailed facial expressions. A 3D-printed skeleton lies beneath Mark 1's silicone skin, covering its mechanical and electronic interior. About 70 percent of its body was made using 3D printing technology. In creating the complex robot, Ma adopted a trial-and-error method.

Ricky Ma, product and graphic designer: "When I started building it, I realized it would involve dynamics, electromechanics and programming. I have never studied programming, how was I supposed to code? Additionally, I needed to build 3D models for all the parts inside the robot. Also, I had to make sure the robot's external skin and its internal parts could fit together. When you look at everything together, it was really difficult."

Ma, who believes the importance of robots will grow, hopes an investor will buy his prototype, giving him the capital to build more. He wants to write a book about his experience to help other enthusiasts.

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