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.
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!
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!
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.
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!