Skip to main content

Tinkering Tinkerer: Marek Michalowski

Marek Michalowski
A bright yellow rubber duck with large expressive eyes against a clear blue sky.

Dr. Marek Michalowski is a roboticist working at the intersection of engineering, design, and psychology. He is president and co-founder of BeatBots LLC, which designs interactive robotic characters for entertainment, research, and art.

In 2006, while working on his doctorate thesis exploring the role of rhythmic and nonverbal cues in social interaction, Marek began collaborating with Dr. Hideki Kozima of Japan, designer of the robot Keepon. Keepon was originally created for autism therapy, but then found a wider audience through several popular music videos featuring the robot dancing. Marek and Kozima founded BeatBots in 2007 in order to meet demand for their robotic designs. Keepon Pro is a research platform that includes sensors and a teleoperation interface for therapeutic practice in playroom settings. It is being sold and leased to research institutions and companies around the world. My Keepon, developed in partnership with UK-based Wow! Stuff, is a stand-alone consumer toy that dances to music and responds emotionally to touch interaction. Marek has written for Make Magazine, is collaborating with artists on the large-scale robotic installation The New Artist, and occasionally works with designers at LA-based Syyn Labs. His work has been exhibited at WIRED NextFest, the Webby Awards, Pixelache, Pictoplasma, and on the Today Show. Marek is enthusiastic about the growth of desktop fabrication and community hackerspaces, and about their implications for the future of toys, art, and design. In his spare time, he enjoys using his private pilot, scuba, and motorcycle licenses (though never at the same time). Marek was born in Poland, grew up in New York, and currently lives in San Francisco. Marek participated in our Open MAKE: Toys event, and was interviewed by Dale Dougherty in the McBean Theater.

Marek’s interview at Open MAKE: Toys