Benjamin Heckendorn is not an engineer, but what the heck? The Ben Heck Show is still the most watched engineering program on the Internet with over seven million viewers worldwide. With 77 episodes in the can and in its third season, The Ben Heck Show--sponsored by Element 14--has shown engineers how to prototype over 50 of the most zany yet sought-after you-build-it projects in the history of engineering--from a mailbox that tells you when its just gotten a delivery, to robot luggage that follows you around the airport hands-free.
Now the show--or at least Heckendorn--is coming to DESIGN West. Even though the point of The Ben Heck Show is entertainment, rather than product development, Heckendorn has amassed a plethora of anecdotes about building engineering prototypes to share with you at his DESIGN West 2013 session What the Heck is That? Prototyping Tales of Horror from Ben Heck. on Tuesday, April 23, 9:30-10:15 AM.
[Click here to register for DESIGN West 2013,
April 22-25 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. Options range
from an All-Access Pass -- which includes Black Hat (security)
Conference Session to Free Expo Admission].
"Ideas for our prototypes are about 50/50 viewer-suggestions and stuff that we come up with on our own," said Heckendorn. "And unlike Kickstarter, you don't have to implement your own idea when you send it to us."
Many of Heckendorn's user-recommended projects are merely modding existing devices, such as repackaging an Xbox into a laptop form-factor, but his most interesting prototypes are built from scratch. As a seasoned traveler, one of his personal favorites is Episode 38: See Ben Build Autonomous Robot Luggage!.
"Whenever I travel I never have enough hands, what with pulling my carry-on and holding my sack lunch in one hand and my drink in the other," said Heckendorn. "So I thought--what if my luggage could follow me around the airport? Then I'd have my hands free for eating and stuff."
|Host of The Ben Heck Show, Benjamin Heckendorn, showing his robot luggage prototype which follows its user around the airport to keep their hands free during travel.|
The result is a suitcase with powered wheels and an inset handle that turns off the electronics when you pick it up, but which deploys a third wheeled leg when depressed allowing it to lean back and follow you under its own power in a manner reminiscent of the way Star Wars' R2D2 leans back when moving. The user pockets an ultrasound emitter for the robot-luggage to follow, using two "ears" atop opposite corners of the suitcase that calculate the time-of-flight for the signal, thus allowing it to center itself on the path taken by its user.
"The receivers look like wide eyeballs on a bug, which allow Doug--that's what we call him--to calculate the angle at which you are walking in front of him, so he can follow you no matter which way you turn," said Heckendorn. "We don't have collision avoidance, so he's not really ready for crowded airports, but Doug will follow you around an empty parking lot all day."
Most of Heckendorn's projects are not designed to be foolproof end-user products, but nevertheless he has collected a amazing array of interesting anecdotes and mottoes to describe the human-condition-for-engineerers, as he puts it--from well-known maxims like "don't build what you can buy" to obscure optimization advice like "add code until it works, then remove code until it breaks."
Today Heckendorn's short list for future projects has less that a dozen entries, so if you have an idea for a whizbang prototype you'd like to see him build--or just want to join in the fun of interacting with "Ben Heck" in person--then attend his DESIGN West 2013 session What the Heck is That? Prototyping Tales of Horror from Ben Heck.
on Tuesday, April 23, 9:30-10:15 AM.