BEAM robotics is the brain child of Mark W. Tilden who is currently working at "Los Alamos National Laboratory" in Los Alamos, New Mexico, US.
BEAM robotics as described in the BEAM rule book:
1/: A description of what aspects a roving robot creature could contain. BEAM is a triple acronym which stands for:
The message being "Living Machines" require more to build and understand than just the standard practices of electronics, mechanics and programming. 2/: A research and education organization dedicated to the promotion and construction of unorthodox, scientific robotics to improve the "genetic" stock of autonomous robots for real-world application.
Since this was written (1994) BEAM has advanced quite a bit and is allot easier to get started in. Web sites are sprouting up all the time with tons of info on how to get started. Kits can be bought at Solarbotics and there is even a BEAM discussion mailing list. Read the FAQ on my site for info on how to get started.
BEAM is also a great way to learn about electronics and mechanics. I've taught several classes on BEAM and 90% of the kids get their bot working the first time. Because of the low cost BEAM is also a great hobby. Another nice thing is that virtually all the parts required to make a BEAM bot can be found in techno-junk aka: broken electronics (ovens, walkman's, CD players and pagers just to name a few good sources). Surprisingly the average range of the BEAM community is 13-17 but goes up to older electrical engineers and hobbyists.
Because BEAM is very adaptable there have been many different types of BEAM robots built. The most common types are....
Solaroller - A small wheeled robot that collects energy from a small photovoltaic cell and then bursts forward a few millimeters to a few feet depending on the construction.
Photovore - The photovore is basically two solarollers stuck together to give it a phototropic (move towards brightest source of light) behavior. You can add sensors so it wont get stuck and like the solaroller it's also solar powered.
Walker - The walker is the heart of BEAM. The most common type of walker is the 4 legged, 2 motor design (see photo above). They also (at the time of this writing) include 2 legged, star wars like walkers to 6 legged 12 motor designs. Walkers can be built to walk on mars, blow up land mines, scare your secretary and many more useful (and not so useful) applications.
The possibilities are limitless! If your interested in getting started in BEAM robotics read the FAQ, Good Luck!