On Monday, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that “Mythbusters” co-host and robotics genius Grant Imahara has died of a sudden brain aneurysm. He was 49.
The untimely passing of Imahara has sparked a wave of grief and memory throughout the technology world. Coworkers, friends, and fans have shown an outpouring of love for the famous engineer.
A look back at his legacy and life’s work shows just how impactful his creativity and positive attitude were.
Grant Imahara was born in Los Angeles in 1970 and went on to graduate from the University of Southern California with a degree in electrical engineering. He reportedly had second thoughts of being an engineer and wanted to become a screenwriter. Ultimately, he combined the two passions by landing a job with Lucasfilm’s THX and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) divisions.
Imahara spent nine years there, gaining the opportunity to work on some of the most recognizable projects in the world. As chief model maker with a specialization in animatronics, he worked on George Lucas’ “Star Wars” prequels with characters like R2-D2 and C3PO. He also worked on “The Matrix” sequels and “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.” Even the Energizer Bunny has Imahara’s creativity to thank.
Of course, it was Imahara’s on-screen role as a co-host of Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” that would propel him to fame. He frequently described himself as a “human guinea pig,” designing machines to test myths when the situation was too dangerous for humans.
Imahara’s co-host Adam Savage tweeted on Monday evening to express his grief at the passing of his friend and coworker.
I’m at a loss. No words. I’ve been part of two big families with Grant Imahara over the last 22 years. Grant was a truly brilliant engineer, artist and performer, but also just such a generous, easygoing, and gentle PERSON. Working with Grant was so much fun. I’ll miss my friend.
— Adam Savage (@donttrythis) July 14, 2020
Fellow co-host Kari Byron also tweeted that she wished she had a time machine, along with a photo of herself, Imahara, and Tory Belleci.
— Kari Byron (@KariByron) July 13, 2020
Following his time on “Mythbusters,” Imahara reunited with the show’s trio to appear on Netflix’s “White Rabbit Project” in 2016.
While Grant Imahara pursued many career avenues in his lifetime, robotics was undoubtedly his passion. His work with robots started early on.
Imahara frequently appeared on Comedy Central’s “BattleBots” in the early 2000s with his self-designed fighting bots. His creation called “Deadblow” won two Middleweight Rumbles and was the third season’s first-ranked robot.
Just recently, Imahara had the chance to host a Darpa event at 2019’s Mobile World Congress in Los Angeles. Darpa’s Spectrum Collaboration Challenge is “the culmination of three years of grueling competition to reimagine the way wireless devices manage spectrum using autonomy and artificial intelligence.”
He also played an advisory role for the American company, MegaBots, as it prepared for a giant robot battle with Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industry.
In 2018, Imahara was an author on a Disney Research paper called “Stickman: Towards a Human Scale Acrobatic Robot.” Disney later revealed that the Stickman prototype became an autonomous, self-corrective, acrobatic audio-animatronic figure named Stuntronics. It will be utilized in Disney’s theme parks in the future.
As for why he loved robotics, Imahara said it was all about the challenge. In a 2008 interview with Machine Design, he said, “I liked the challenge of designing and building things, figuring out how something works and how to make it better or apply it in a different way. When I was a kid, I never wanted to be James Bond. I wanted to be Q, because he was the guy who made all the gadgets. I guess you could say that engineering came naturally.”
As of now, it isn’t clear whether Imahara’s death is related to COVID-19. It’s a reasonable question to ask since the virus appears to be connected to fatal strokes and aneurysms in a significant number of patients. Los Angeles County, Imahara’s home, is currently dealing with a huge surge in COVID-19 cases.
Still, there’s nothing at this point to suggest his untimely death is anything more than a tragedy and an unrelated brain aneurysm.
Regardless, Imahara will be missed—not only by the robotics community but by the world.