Engineer and YouTuber Mark Rober has created a robot that can create domino murals at lightning speed, and showed it with a video of him arranging 100,000 dominoes in a Super Mario Bros.themed mural in just over 24 hours. Rober says it takes a team of seven people a week to do the same.
The robot, called the ‘Dominator’, achieves this by laying down 300 dominoes at a time – which, of course, are loaded into it by another robot. Rober says in the video that the current version of the Dominator is the result of years of work by him and his team, and he goes into how the device actually works, as well as showing some of the failed designs that led to the final product. .
If the name Mark Rober rings a bell, it may be because we’ve covered some of his exploits in the past, from a glittery device intended to deter pirates in the porch, a giant Super Soaker, a dart -tracking dartboard and a moving basketball hoop. A team of three other people helped him build the robot and code the software. He also enlists domino artist and YouTuber Lily Hevesh to act as a human opponent for the Dominator (a la Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter play Jeopardy versus IBM’s Watson). You can watch her video to see what it’s like for someone skilled at laying down dominoes to take on the robot.
Rober’s video briefly goes into the construction of the robot, but there’s a series of blog posts written by the team that go into massive amounts of detail on everything from how the project went from idea, to prototype, to robot, how the software and hardware operate, and more. One of the more interesting sections is about the robot’s navigation – it uses GPS for the most part, but it turns out it took a lot of trial and error to get the robot to align the dominoes correctly without knocking them over. The team ended up using a camera and marking system to solve what it called “the last inch problem,” after testing a few other options.
One of the most satisfying parts of the video, of course, is knocking down the 100,000 dominoes – a task that also required some technical work, and makes wonderful use of a Mario-themed prop. It’s a joy to see a year-long project like this come together, and while this particular robot may not be able to perform complex household chores or deliver pizza (although if it could, it’s clear for whatever chain it would work), it can absolutely stack dominoes with the best of them.