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What is BEAM?
Simply put-
BEAM is a design philosophy that emphasizes minimalist and robust solutions to building robots. As BEAM founder Mark Tilden has often shown it doesn't take much of a brain to make a capable robot.

The most common BEAM acronym stands for:


Biology- Why re-invent the wheel when nature has already done so? The idea here is to use nature as a guide to building robots after all, nature does have the advantage of a few million years beta testing.
Using biology for inspiration and guidance is no new idea, its been around since the 40's and probably long before that. (see Tortoise by Gray Walter)

Electronics- These are the guts of what run a robot. The difference here is that most BEAM robots do not use a programmed microcontroller, not that this excludes the use of one by any means. For some applications simple discreet components, logic gates and amplifiers can do the job quicker and easier than a microcontroller and do a surprisingly good job as well.

Aesthetics- Form follows function, there is a reason falcons are shaped the way they are, there is a reason pigs don't fly. Although not always the case the general rule is that the better constructed the robot the better it will perform. The aesthetics can also be seen as the artistic side to building robots. If your going to do it it may as well look good.

Mechanics- No matter how good the control electronics are they can not make up for bad hardware, as it's exceedingly difficult to walk on broken legs. This is key in determining the lifetime and performance of your robot. Don't underestimate the value of good mechanisms.


My View-

  BEAM robotics provides an interesting perspective to the field of robotics, we don't do the laptop computer taped to a trashcan on wheels nor do we do fancy remote control cars. BEAM excels at making cheap, autonomous robots that survive. The bare basics of BEAM provide a great introduction to the world of robotics and electronics. Want to scrap that old VCR and use the pieces to make a robot? then this is the area to be in.


Another more recent view
  I don't know what to call it and there probably is a name but I see a threshold point at which it becomes impractical to "go BEAM" and to just buy a $5 PIC that does the same thing. BEAM will always have certain advantages and the threshold point is always being pushed but at the same time the microcontroller world is getting smaller, faster and cheaper. This thought came to light after reading this article on building wheels the hard way, by CAD design through to CNC machining and months of design. I realize that not many BEAM bots out there implement such precision.
BEAM dead?
Every few months on the mailing list the idea that BEAM is dead pops up. I can see the relevance of the arguments both for and against. For something to die it needs to be defined- what has exactly died? BEAM is more than using specific circuits for robot design, BEAM is a design philosophy.