Who We Are
Wunderkammer Laboratory™ is a place where mad scientists create the technology of the future; a storm-shrouded castle from which robot butlers emerge and jet packs take flight. The Laboratory is founded on the belief that elements of the techno-utopia envisioned in the Atomic Age and Space Age are both desirable and attainable; it just takes commitment, hard work, and the application and extension of technology to create such a world. To that end, Wunderkammer Laboratory develops prototypes and technologies intended to be used by other companies to manufacture goods and provide services. The Laboratory's current focus is robotics, in particular building Cerberus, a robot for the NASA Sample Return Robot Challenge.
The Company Name
Jim Rothrock and his wife, Carrie, are both cat lovers. One day, Carrie sent Jim an article about a Victorian diorama of taxidermied kittens having a tea party. While reading about the bizarre display, Jim noticed the word wunderkammer. Literally, it means “wonder room,” and is used to describe eclectic private museums of the Renaissance. One of the company's potential names was Basement of Wonders, but Wunderkammer had more exotic connotations. Wunderkammer was the name of several other companies, though, so Laboratory was added to make clear that this was an organization that created technological wonders. The company name is pronounced woon-der-kah-mer lah-BOR-ah-TOR-ee. Saying it with a Peter Lorre voice is optional.
Jim Rothrock, Chief Inventor
Jim Rothrock began his software development career at a young age. In high school, he became frustrated with being unable to play his favorite arcade game at home, so he wrote a similar game in Z80 machine code for his Sinclair ZX81. Jim ported the Imagic game Dragonfire to the Timex Sinclair 2068 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum, then got a job writing business application programs after school. He also found time to write the maze solving code for the micromouse robot Zeetah III.
After college, Jim wrote embedded software for a company that made graphics boards. Unlike the “dumb” frame buffers of the time, these boards had one or more CPUs for drawing graphics, a precursor to the GPUs of today. To maximize rendering speed, much of the code had to be written in assembly language. Jim's biggest project at that company was an embedded X server that ran on a four-processor VMEbus board. The majority of the program was written in C++, a relatively new language at the time.
In the early 1990s, Jim left the graphics board world for an adventure in feature film visual effects that would last nearly two decades. Beginning by writing software that controlled high-resolution motion picture film scanners and recorders, he soon moved on to the creation of image processing software, and finally into the realm of 3D CGI rendering. Jim has worked on films such as Titanic and Tron: Legacy, the Soarin' Over California and T2 3-D theme park attractions, and videos for Bjork and Michael Jackson. While working on Tron: Legacy, Jim built Beast, a Robo-Magellan robot. Once his work on Tron: Legacy was finished, Jim was ready for a new challenge, and decided to leave the visual effects industry and devote himself to creating a robot for the NASA Sample Return Robot Challenge. At the time, he said, “I'd rather spend my time building a real robot than a computer-generated robot. Instead of helping to make movies about going to Mars, I want to be part of an effort to actually explore Mars.” Thus, Wunderkammer Laboratory was born.
Jim has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. He is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery.