Image via WIRED
Inventor Jaimie Mantzel’s home base in the wilds of Vermont is like a cross between Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, Santa’s workshop, and Tolkien’s Middle-earth. You might even call him the first artisan robot maker. Part lumberjack, part tech genius, Mantzel came on the radar last year with a YouTube video that racked up 2 million views in 72 hours. The star of that video? A goliath, 12-foot-tall, six-legged robot constructed of steel and aluminum.
Working out of his large workshop, the Banana Building, Mantzel calls this homegrown android the Giant Robot Project. Says the toymaker, “I’m fully aware that I’m a robot-building nerd, hippie, whatever. But you know, if I’m going to be a nerd, I may as well be a cool one.” Now it seems Mantzel is bringing his robots to the masses—albeit in Lilliputian dimensions. He’s designing a series of mini bots for the U.K. toy company Wow! Stuff.
Nowadays, Mantzel supports himself, his partner, and their two kids on about $5,000 a year from money he makes off Internet ads, but his expenses are minimal. With no utility bills to pay or a dreaded 9-to-5 day job, Mantzel spends his days toying around with new ideas—like how to build a solar-powered amphibious RV.