Below are two videos related to our SUPERball Tensegrity Robot. First is a “mission concept” video, which shows how SUPERball could be used to land on another planet at high speeds, and then used for exploration, and the second video is actual footage of our first prototype showing baby steps on both the landing and exploration capabilities.
Mission Concept Video
One of the key things to take away from this video is that once you have a robot that is so robust that it can safely land at high speeds after falling from orbit, it can also move and explore in ways that would be impossible with a traditional rover. For example, it could dynamically leap into a crater and expect to survive the fall, considering that it is designed to fall from orbit. This video was initially created by our Collaborators at University of Idaho (John Crepeau, John Anderson, Dr. Stephen Howe, and the Tensegrity ME Capstone and VTD Aerospace Capstone teams).
Prototype SUPERball Landing and Locomotion Video
Concept Videos are important, but real engineering is better! This video is a demonstration of the first SUPERball prototype showing initial examples of impact robustness (driving off a loading dock) and locomotion. This prototype was developed specifically to address foundational engineering concepts related to locomotion of tensegrity robots, such as sensor and actuator design, controllability, and system performance analysis. While this prototype was not explicitly designed to withstand the high speed landing scenarios envisioned for the full system, we see that it can easily survive falls of a meter, which would seriously damage most traditional robots. A future prototype will integrate lessons learned from this iteration, and will incorporate a number of design features to enable high-speed landing scenarios.
I am actively looking for phd students and post docs with concentrations in controls or mechatronics design to help with this project. Please spread the word and contact me if interested!
As soon as the book was published in May I had friends writing to me excited to see our ideas appearing in a Science Fiction novel by such a famous author! How Fun! So, I immediately ordered a copy of the book and read it. It was a thrilling, edge of the seat, ride, (admittedly our tensegrity robots only play a small role in the storyline, but it is fun that they show up!) and I can strongly encourage anyone to buy a copy and enjoy it!
And, while we are on the topic of PR and attention for our research, it is also fun to share the following article which was published in The American Scientist in July of 2015.
Wow, so many things to share! Five months ago our son was born, and now our research is showing up in kids books everywhere! I’m really excited about this, and the opportunity to inspire future generations of robotics engineers and researchers!
I’m especially pleased by the newest book published by Scholastic: “Really? Robots” — I contributed a section on our robots, helped edit the overall book, and wrote the forward. It is a fun and inspirational book with an overview of many different types of robots and how they function. Besides the joy of inspiring future generations of robot builders, I’m also honored by the credit they have given me:
And before I even had my own copy of the book I got a request for an autograph from my first fan! I ended up inviting Lilly to visit our lab so that she could see the robots in person. It was delightful to see how excited she was from the experience, and I hope it inspires her to think more about robots and intelligence.
It was a great article, and is geared at inspiring elementary school kids. They are working on an e-book for science teachers to include in classroom education, and so I’m excited to see that coming out soon.
Along with the blog post, they made this really excellent video:
And finally, if all this inspirational content is enough to excite a young engineer into action, another book was recently published on Making Simple Robots! This is a great book with simple instructions and includes a project for making a tensegrity robot!
So, all together, it is really joyful to be finding ways to share the inspiration of our robotics research with students from all age groups — from post-docs to pre-school! Enjoy, and please share these resources with the young engineers and curious learners in your life!
You can find the books listed above on Amazon by following these links:
When developing a new simulator, it is important to constantly verify with real hardware implementations that the resulting simulations are a reasonable reflection of reality, and not just pretty movies. We learned this early on when our first tensegrity robot simulations turned out to be violating basic laws of physics by harnessing “free-energy” generated by the unrealistic cable models built into the Bullet Physics Engine. We then spent significant time developing new and realistic elastic cable models which actually followed the laws of physics and didn’t introduce new energy into the system. In a prior paper we reported on motion capture experiments which validated that our NASA Tensegrity Robotics Toolkit matched the behavior of our six strut ReCTeR robot to within 1.3% error on position through dynamic motions.
The following video shows recent experiments to verify the behavior of our tensegrity “spine” simulations. As you will see in the following video, the basic behaviors of the simulation match well to the hardware prototype that we developed. Given that hardware is expensive to build, we made a 3 segment prototype which shows close agreement to our simulated 3-segment models, and thus we feel confident that the behavior of our larger simulated spines are realistic. The second video below shows some of those larger spine simulations which are controlled via neuroscience inspired “Central Pattern Generator” control networks.
Our full sized tensegrity spine simulations which shows their reactive adaptation to different terrains.
Here you will find my thoughts on being human, based on my ongoing research into robotic and human motion, neuroscience, physiology, and machine learning. You will also find videos of my talks and papers from the Dynamic Tensegrity Robotics Lab which I lead at the NASA Ames Research Center.
Based on my understanding of human physiology and motion, here are some quick reviews on my favorite ergonomic tools. These are the ones I use at home and at work. I will add more in-depth posts discussing the alignment theory as I get them written.
FitBall Sitting Disc
Sitting Discs are a great way to train for Active Sitting. By destabilizing the surface you are sitting on, they engage your core muscles and keep you in dynamic motion while your body actively balances on the disk. I recommend the larger 15" disc. In Depth Review
Salli Saddle Stool
The Salli saddle stools are one of the best stools for Active Sitting. They hold your pelvis upright, so that your spine can be well aligned with gravity, while also allowing your knees to be lower than your hips to keep your hamstrings and hip-flexors from shortening. Actively sitting takes effort, so increase your time in the saddle slowly.
3M Ergonomic Mouse
The vertical design keeps the arm in a well aligned neutral "handshake" position that prevents the shoulder from rolling forward. By keeping your shoulders back and the scapula flat on your back you avoid many of the common sources of wrist pain. This is the biggest bang for your buck if you are having wrist pain. It comes in small and large sizes (small is linked below). Sadly, I have only seen it for right hands.
Like the 3M mouse above, this keyboard allows you to have your hands in a more neutral vertical position which reduces many of the problems associated with wrist and shoulder pain. It also allows you to spread the key pads to be at shoulder width so that you don't have to twist your wrist like on a straight keyboard.
A sit stand desks allows you to dance while working! It also allows you change between a variety of different sitting options and standing so that you don't get stuck in one position. The best option that I have found is from GeekDesk.com. I have two from them and they are the cheapest and have held up well. You can save even more money by buying just the base frame from GeekDesk and getting the table top from Ikea. You save on price and shipping is significantly less this way.
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Books I Recommend
Sync: How Order Emerges From Chaos In the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life
This book blew my mind.
Really -- this was probably one of the most influential books I've read in a decade. This points straight at the heart of what we intuitively recognize as the difference between living breathing organic aspects of nature and the mechanistic nature of human engineered system. It all boils down to oscillators and their ability to synchronize. This basic mathematical property is the basis for all the order that we see in the world -- and our ability to move -- and our ability to relate to each other -- and really everything. This is an easy and engaging read, and you will come away with new eyes for the world.
Anatomy of Movement
This was the best book I have read for learning about the function of my own body and is endlessly useful for anyone who is alive and moving in the world. Ever have pain when you make a specific motion and wonder what is going on? This book will help you isolate the muscles responsible for that motion. By showing how each muscle moves your body under different conditions, you will learn their *use* rather than just memorizing a bunch of names.
Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists
This book is great to see and understand the complex network of tension in the living body, and to learn about fascia and how it works.
Rhythms of the Brain
This recently published book covers cutting edge theories of how the brain works. The key focus is on how the brain relies heavily on coupled oscillatory networks, timing loops, and synchronization. It also discusses how the activity in the brain can be viewed as a dynamic tensegrity structure. A more technical book, but well worth the effort!