Design of the Week: Quarantine Haircut Robot

Design of the Week: Quarantine Haircut Robot
Shane Wighton about to test the haircut robot [Source: YouTube]

This week’s selection is the scary Quarantine Haircut Robot by YouTuber Shane Wighton.

On Wighton’s channel, “Stuff Made Here“, last week the maker published an amazing video of a project to make an automated robot that could literally give you a haircut.

Quarantines and lockdowns have given us all conniptions with hairstyles and worse, and the situation was such that Wighton decided to make a robot to resolve his growing hair.

This was no “drag some clippers across and make you bald” machine. No, it involved literally cutting his hair with mechanized, sharp scissors. This sounds so dangerous I thought, at the beginning, the video was a parody or joke.

It wasn’t.

Design of the Week: Quarantine Haircut Robot
The partially 3D printed haircut robot [Source: YouTube]

In the 13-minute video, Wighton explains in some detail how he approached this rather complex problem. He had to figure out practical ways to:


  • Not kill or maim the subject
  • Separate hair sections for consistent cutting length
  • Move the robot to all hair sections
  • Cut at optimum angles for selected areas (like bangs)
  • Cut different programmed hairstyles
  • Definitely not kill or maim the subject

Wighton experimented with several different approaches for each until arriving at solutions that were implementable. At one point, for example, he considered using a 3D depth camera to determine the precise location of the head during the cut, but found that the robot would periodically obscure the camera’s view. In that case he had to revert to a touch sensor: a simpler solution that worked.

Design of the Week: Quarantine Haircut Robot
3D printed parts in the haircut robot [Source: YouTube]

Wighton explained his build process, which obviously involved multiple making technologies. Some parts were metal plasma-cut parts, whereas others were off-the-shelf components. However, much of the device was 3D printed. Wighton said:

“There was only one machined part and that’s because I was able to 3D print pretty much everything. This was great because there are complicated shapes, which would have been very difficult to make [with other tools]”.

Design of the Week: Quarantine Haircut Robot
Wighton nervous before starting the robotic haircut [Source: YouTube]

While the construction of the device is certainly interesting, the meaty part was to see it in action. Would it cut off Wighton’s head? Or merely mess up his hair?

Apparently he was unable to properly test the device as the mannequin and wig he used had wire-like hair that could not be cut by the scissors. So he volunteered himself to be a guinea pig.

Design of the Week: Quarantine Haircut Robot
Robotic haircut in progress [Source: YouTube]

Wighton chose to add some color to the cut by having the robot speak typical hairstylist phrases during the process, some of which are pretty ridiculous. Be sure to listen for them when watching the video.

In the video there’s a time-lapse of the cut, and it seems to proceed safely, and actually did not a bad job. However, as the cut concluded there was a bit of a surprise.

It turned out the robot was unable to reach the bottom portion of his neck, and result was a near-perfect mullet.

Design of the Week: Quarantine Haircut Robot
Shane Wighton’s robotic mullet cut [Source: YouTube]

Wighton says the cut was about what he expected, a US$5 cut. He says:

“I’d pay $5 for this cut.”

Would you?

Via YouTube (Hat tip to Glen)


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