Rafael Hostettler
Robotics Engineer

“I think, one of the most underestimated aspects is integrating things”, Rafael Hostettler tells about the challenges of working as a Robotics Engineer. To combine software, hardware, electronics and control engineering is the hardest part of his job. The product is a very complex one: “We are trying to build robots that imitate the human body not just by looking like it, but also by imitating some of the principles.”


Drei Ratschläge an Dein 14jähriges Ich!

I would probably say that he should not study physics but mechanical engineering but I would tell him to not be afraid of anything. Just try and I would probably tell him to found the company much earlier.

Was steht auf Deiner Visitenkarte?

It’s says my name Rafael Hostettler and Munich.

Was ist das coolste an Deinem Job?

So I also have is a human robot called Rob Boy and we use it for communication purposes. It’s a very cute robot and thanks to this robot I get to travel a lot. I get to talk to very interesting people over the world which are also outside robotics. We also do in theater plays where the robot stars in a theater play. And I think this is basically really to the core because there are all these things that we can see and we want to, that I can experience which of course I am very grateful for.

Welche Einschränkungen bringt Dein Job mit sich?

It’s a job full of challenges, one of the; I think most of the underestimated things is integrating things. So basically we are doing software at our place and another of our partner is doing hardware and the another is doing electronics and the last one is doing control engineering and because at the beginning everyone has to start working from one direction and basically making all this things working together and integrating them, this is a very hard thing. It is what we are doing right now and in the project we are going towards the end of this project. And yeah, getting things to work as we expect them to do is really a challenge.

Worum geht es in Deinem Job?

We are trying to build robots that imitate the human body and not just by looking like the human body but also by imitating some of the principals. So we built robots that have muscles instead of motors in the joint and we try to control these robots. Well, this sounds very interesting; a typical work day mostly consists of sitting in front of the PC and programming or designing and things not working. That’s basically 99% of the time and this 1% is why we do it. So the system programming is a more of a system where you can assemble rob muscles; robots at the PC. So you basically say okay I want this bone, this joint, I want that muscle there and you can assemble a whole robot together. And what we are doing, what at; our university students is basically creating a software for this. So they write a software where in which they assemble these robots you can simulate them through simulatory building and then once you are happy with the results you can optimize it further. You can build robot, you get explanation basically about how this robot is being assembled, how you get the parts, and you can order them or you can have to build them yourself and then you can assemble this robot and you can use our software to control it. So we try to basically have a simulation that works really closely and so we have this happening in reality.

Wie sieht Dein Werdegang aus?

I was born in a small city, a small town in Switzerland called .. which is a very tiny town and then I went to school, I went to high school, it wasn’t much interesting happening I had to choose a subject and I basically, well I just thought well just take the hardest one. So I decided to study physics and it turned out to be that it is a bit dry bit too dry for my personal taste. So I had a brief into .. with History of Arts and philosophy. I then decided that I really wanted to take tools out of my studies, something that will help me being applied later in my life. So I went back to ETH and finished the study called Computational Science. It’s a mixture of informatics, mathematics and natural sciences like physics and so on. There I had specialization in robots; I was very interested in that. I then had a brief into med school in Berlin for a year where I studied PhD but my professor and I just had different interest so I returned to Zurich where I took over there robot project that was then at this point finished and made sure that all the debts that had accrued would be fulfilled. From there I took it to Munich because it was an open position in a project that is very close to, Rob Boy and we tried to start building a community around Rob Boy with a lot of people working on it, with universities, and we did a Rob Boy school program where young students basically learn about robotics how it’s probably a very it’s good decision to go into natural sciences. Right now we are building up this project and we have been approached by investors about building a robotic heads. So we creating a start up, basically creating a robotic head that we can put at an entry where it’s very friendly where you are entering a local building and that’s where we are right now.

Ginge es auch ohne Deinem Werdegang?

Robotics is very inter-disciplinary. There is Informatics, there is Electronics, there is machine Engineering, there is Biology; there is medicine, so there is all this aspects, Neuroscience that are important to it. Basically someone interested or trained in one of this topics could do my job by learning all the other things. So yes of course, I think you need to be very interested in what’s happening analytic, like when I see a bee I don’t see a bee I see a very tiny robot and I’m very jealous of how well this robot is being build. And I think one needs to be very analytic, like really thing what are the properties that are required, what are the properties that we can give up because we cannot model anything at this extreme precision or detail that nature has.