Stompy gets off the ground with a Kickstarter: buy a ride on a 2-ton hexabot

In June we were promised a Kickstarter for Project Hexapod's 10-foot tall, two-ton Stompy. We're happy to report that Gui Cavalcanti and his cohorts (James Whong and Dan Cody) at the Artisan's Asylum weren't kidding. This morning the page went live and you can officially pledge your support for rideable six-legged robots. Now that the chassis is 80 percent through the design phase, the half-scale prototype leg (Gimpy) has proven its mettle, and the full-size prototype leg has been designed and the necessary parts ordered, it's time to start lining up funding for the final project. You know how it works: you pledge a certain amount of money and in return you receive a particular level of reward. Don't have much to offer? For just $5 the team will scale the White Mountains and shout your name from the top, while $10 will get you get you something a bit more tangible -- a bumper sticker that reads "my other car has six legs."

Sure, stickers, photos and T-shirts are nice, but the real fun comes when you pledge something substantial, like $200. At that level Stompy will live up to his name and crush any inanimate, non-volatile object of your choosing. Project Hexapod will even post a video of the destruction on YouTube for the world to enjoy. But, wait, it gets better. Cough up $300, and you'll get to ride the 18-foot wide steel beast. Jump to a cool grand and they'll let you man the controls. There's a few more levels above that, but get this, if you contribute $300,000, they'll build you your own Stompy (we've already started emptying our retirement accounts and pooling our funds). The goal is a perfectly reasonable $65,000 -- especially when you consider each leg is roughly $6,000 in raw materials. But, at $95K, the team will add a "performance upgrade" package that'll allow it to move faster, smoother and over more rugged terrain.

If you're at all concerned at all about where your money is going, we'll leave you with these parting pieces of information to consider. One: When the project is complete, everything from the CAD designs to the lesson plans used in the associated class will be posted online for anyone to download. Two: In the course of designing Stompy, the Project Hexapod crew developed a position-controlled hydraulic actuator capable of generating 18,000 pounds of force with a two-foot stroke that's two orders of magnitude cheaper that comparable hardware. And, three: If the team reaches $300,000 in funding, they will buy a waterjet cutter and install it at the Artisan's Asylum for public use. It will also be used to build a "zoo's worth of rideable robots." Neither we, nor they are kidding.