The high bay at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University is alive and hyperactive night and day with the likes of Hyperion, which traversed the Antarctic, and Zoe, the world's first robot scientist. Robot Segways learn to play soccer, while others go on treasure hunts. Dozens of cavorting mechanical creatures, along with tangles of wire, tools and computer innards are scattered haphazardly. These zipping and zooming gizmos are controlled by dishevelled young men sitting on the floor, folding chairs or tool cases, or huddled, squinting over laptops. In this remarkable portrait of the robotic subculture and the challenging quest for robot autonomy, Lee Gutkind immerses himself in this frenzied subculture, following these roboticists and their bold conceptual machines from Pittsburgh to NASA and to the most barren and arid desert on earth. He makes intelligible their discoveries and stumbling points in this lively behind-the-scenes work.