Syfy's robot expert

Every week, a new and interesting human being tackles our decidedly geeky take on the Proustian Q&A. This is the Engadget Questionnaire.

In this installment of our regular session of inquiry, special effects and robot expert Mark Setrakian (of Syfy's Robot Combat League) talks tools of the robot trade and cyberspace-augmented memory. Join us on the other side of the break for the full collection of responses.

Syfy's robot expert Mark Setrakian on tools of the trade and 3D printingWhat gadget do you depend on most?
Mostly my iPhone. But really I depend on my Haas VF-4SS, because you can't make a giant robot with a phone.

Which do you look back upon most fondly?
My Mac SE/30. Around 1990, I had it hooked up to a 19-inch greyscale CRT, and a Kurta tablet with about 100 Quick Keys macros around the perimeter of the pen area. System 6, Claris CAD, no internet, no email.

Which company does the most to push the industry?
Apple always seems to be five steps ahead of everybody, and their products have an elegance that belies how much work went into them. I have been devoted to Apple products for years, but lately I've taken a strong interest in Samsung (the clunky / awesome Galaxy Camera) and Microsoft (see below...).

What is your operating system of choice?
All of my engineering work is done in Windows 7 64-bit, often on a Mac with Boot Camp. Robot motion-control systems run under RT Linux. For everything else, OS X.

What are your favorite gadget names?
Tenori-on, a well-named piece of alien technology.

What are your least favorite?
Raspberry Pi - it's a great device, but seriously...

Which app do you depend on most?
On my phone, Safari. My phone is mostly a conduit for information and Safari is almost the only app I need. But I also love specialty apps like iEngineer and Circuit Playground. On my computers, Autodesk Inventor and Max/MSP.

What traits do you most deplore in a smartphone?
It's always on, always there, nagging with its unceasing onslaught of communication and its bottomless well of knowledge.

Which do you most admire?
See above.

What is your idea of the perfect device?
I like sharp tools. A device with focused function (some would say limited) and a user interface to suit the task, like a x0xb0x, or the Teenage Engineering OP-1. Can you tell my hobby is music?

"When traveling... I used to bring 10 pounds of hardware with me wherever I went; now I really only need my phone."

What is your earliest gadget memory?
My dad had an ancient TV with a remote he referred to as a "clicker" that turned on the TV and changed the channel by literally making a clicking sound. I carefully took it apart and discovered tuned rods that would be struck when the buttons were pressed. It was purely mechanical; no batteries, no electronics.

What technological advancement do you most admire?
3D printing. I've been using a Stratasys FDM Titan machine for almost 10 years and it has completely changed the way I make things and the way I think about design in general.

Which do you most despise?
OS updates that render my favorite apps obsolete.

What fault are you most tolerant of in a gadget?
Limited functionality. If a device does one thing really well, I don't mind if it doesn't do much else.

Which are you most intolerant of?
An inconsistent user interface.

When has your smartphone been of the most help?
When traveling. I used to bring 10 pounds of hardware with me wherever I went; now I really only need my phone.

What device do you covet most?
Short of an SLS machine that prints titanium, the Fortus 900mc is the 3D printer of my desire. But like the Haas, it's not a pocket device.

If you could change one thing about your phone what would it be?
Honestly, I just wish it had a longer battery life.

What does being connected mean to you?
I feel like cyberspace has become an extension of my memory. I know my own memories change over time, but being connected keeps people and experiences in my life alive in ways that I don't think were possible a decade ago.

When are you least likely to reply to an email?
When I'm focused on work, I often ignore my phone and my email for 12 hours at a time. It gets me in trouble sometimes.

When did you last disconnect?
While on vacation in New Zealand this year, I disconnected for a few days. Disconnecting for any significant period is almost unthinkable.

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Syfy's robot expert Mark Setrakian on 'the clicker,' titanium asperations and the Fortus 900mc 3D printer