If you’re interested in robot makers who live off the grid in Vermont on less than 5k a year, then you’ll love today’s feature article in Wired. If that sort of thing doesn’t interest you, well, sorry. Here’s the story of Jaimie Mantzel:
Mantzel is an inventor, a recluse, and probably the internet’s most popular toymaker. The Giant Robot Project is his masterpiece — a massive, spider-like walking android he fashioned out of steel and aluminum. The formidable six-legged beast is 12 feet high and big enough to drive like a car. The robot went viral online last year, with a YouTube video that garnered more than 2 million hits in three days, and Mantzel documented the project in nearly 100 other YouTube clips. Now, Mantzel is on the brink of bringing his robots to the world, designing a series of miniature versions for the UK toy company Wow! Stuff.
He supports himself, his partner and their two small children on about $5,000 a year — income derived mostly from a share of the ads on his YouTube videos, which garner $10 or more a day, and royalties from robotics projects. The family’s expenses are minimal — there’s no rent or utility bills, and they cook all their own meals. Three solar panels on his roof power a Mac laptop, a 3-D printer and a few 5-watt halogen bulbs. An old wood stove on the first floor provides heat.
While we talk, the 3-D printer stamps out a robot foot. Mantzel is animated and restless; he prefers to sit on the rough-hewn floor — surrounded by crawling bots — because he doesn’t like furniture. Many people ask him if living off the grid is challenging, and he shrugs it off.