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Hardware Validation of Tensegrity Simulator

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.

Posted in Bodies, Robots, Tensegrity.

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The Economist, Wired, and more Media Attention

Following closely on the heels of the release of the great NASA360 video a few weeks ago, we have had another wave of media attention on our tensegrity robotics research, culminating in coverage by the Economist in their Technology Quarterly section this week.

Along the way, we also were interviewed for an article in Wired Magazine, and had articles about our work appear in IEEE Spectrum and The Smithsonian.

I’m very honored by all the media attention!

Posted in Robots, Tensegrity.

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While giving my presentation at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) symposium in January, there was a film crew from NASA360 there. They just put together the following 2 minute long video overview of our dynamic tensegrity robotics research, and it is GREAT! Probably the best produced video of our work yet. It is fun too, because they manage to include clips of all the various prototypes we have worked with over the years. It is a fun, fast, watch — Enjoy!

Posted in Presentations, Robots, Tensegrity.

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Funding Opportunities for Dynamic Tensegrity Robotics Research

I’m excited to spread the word about a couple of opportunities for those interested in tensegrity robotics research — a NASA Early Career Fellowship (Grants will be funded up to $200,000 each per year, for as many as three years), a three year Fellowship for Graduate Students, and a summer internship. Please take a look, submit applications, and spread the word to those who might be interested!

Details of all three opportunities below.


NASA Early Career Fellowship:

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate is seeking proposals from accredited U.S. universities on behalf of outstanding early-career faculty members who are beginning independent research careers. The grants will sponsor research in specific high-priority areas of interest to America’s space program.

Aligned with NASA’s Space Technology Roadmaps and priorities identified by the National Research Council, the agency has identified topic areas that lend themselves to the early stage innovative approaches U.S. universities can offer for solving tough space technology challenges.

“These research grants will help NASA in the development of new space technologies needed for future science and exploration while also fueling the intellectual innovation engine of our nation, powering new discoveries for years to come,” said James Reuther, deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “Technology drives exploration and these research efforts will help us reach new heights while benefiting Earth right now.”

NASA expects to award approximately six to eight grants this fall. Grants will be funded up to $200,000 each per year, for as many as three years, based on the merit of proposals and availability of funds. Funded research will investigate unique, disruptive or transformational space technologies in areas such as dynamic tensegrity technologies for space science and exploration, high-temperature solar cells, fundamental aerothermodynamic model development and synthetic biology technologies for space exploration.

Dynamic tensegrity-based technologies have the potential to enable more capable and affordable space missions through large, reconfigurable space structures and lightweight, volume efficient landers. Tensegrity, or “tensional integrity,” uses tension and compression in skeleton structures for efficient and economic machine design. The first solicitation topic seeks dynamic tensegrity technologies for in-space, landing and surface operations applications.


Posted in Robots, Tensegrity.

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