Putting it all together
BLOG The new Metropolis
C.G. Masi., Contributing Writer -- Packaging Digest, 1/11/2013 10:36:31 AM
Last month, I tried to make the case that we already have all the bits and pieces of technology needed to build an artificial person. That leads immediately to the question: "Is anyone actually close to doing it?"
The answer is: "Yes."
I don't claim an exhaustive knowledge of what everyone in the Universe - or even on this particular big, round rock - is up to, but I do know a few things. Specifically, it recently came to my attention that the folks at Engineered Arts are collaborating with the folks at computer-modelling-software developer Maplesoft to take the next step toward an artificial person.
Engineered Arts is irresponsible for the RoboThespian line of robot lecturers gracing science centers in some fourteen countries. This author got to watch one at the NASA Kennedy Space Center do its stuff late last year. The thing did a credible job of presenting information about NASA's space-exploration efforts, including answering questions from the audience.
Max Q, as the robot's named, exhibited a range of lifelike head and hand movements, but looked like somebody'd nailed its feet to the floor. As a veteran lecturer, myself, I know that the best way to keep your audience engaged is to move around. You want to see a master at work? Go look up a video clip of Richard Feinman lecturing on quantum physics. The man never stopped! Back and forth across the stage, waving his arms like an Italian politician, he made metastable states of pi mesons seem exciting.
Max Q didn't do that. He stood rooted to the spot like a scared second grader reciting a poem.
"Our Flag, by Elanor Hatch ... ."
Bipedal locomotion is a seriously difficult trick to accomplish. Just ask the nearest trained dog. An upright human is, mechanically, an inverse pendulum with the added complication of two movable supports capable of stepping around in three dimensions. Engineered Arts is busy using Maplesoft's mathematical-modeling software to solve the simultaneous coupled differential equations of motion needed to keep the robot upright and moving smoothly across the stage.
The developers are currently working on a biomimetic leg using pneumatic actuators to provide motion similar to that of a human leg in non-linearity and compliance. They hope to have a computer model of the full human body in early 2013, and a working prototype later in the year.
One small step for man. A giant leap for robotkind.
C.G. Masi has been blogging about technology and society since 2006. In a career spanning more than a quarter century, he has written more than 400 articles for scholarly and technical journals, and six novels dealing with automation's place in technically advanced society. For more information, visit www.cgmasi.com.
Mr Kovacs is certainly correct about most engineers choosing instead a more physical approach. But at the same time he delivers a very correct explanation of why it is so. Consider carefully the list of areas of expertise needed to do what he says. Most engineers simply don't have the time, first, to become skilled in all of those areas, and second, to use all of those tools in solving problems that typically have short time frames. I certainly salute Mr Kovacs and Bosch for supporting the effort to do the accurate study using all of the tools.
William K. - 2013-17-1 21:24:41 EST
We could name it R2D2 and send it to the next solar system capable of planets and possible life. Gee just think of the possibilities.
Tom Kunich - 2013-16-1 16:28:32 EST
I read your comments on recent robotic modeling and simulation effort using Maplesoft. I am a professional computational multibody dynamicist with Ph.D. I am also a 30 year expert using ADAMS, one of the oldest and most powerful computational multibody dynamics programs available. It is more powerful and capable than MATLAB and Maplesoft and is used extensively in the auto industry throughout the world.
The problem you mentioned of inverted pendulums is one of stability and feedback control theory. I modeled this very same articulation more than 10 years ago and brought the technology out to a graduate course I was teaching in computational multibody dynamics at Wayne State U in Detroit, MI. Lots of math involved to get engineering workable solutions including DAE’s (differential-algebraic equations), vector and matrix methods to understand 3-D classical dynamics EofM (equations of motion), knowledge of PDE (partial differential equation) applications in elastic structures, theory of linear and nonlinear control algorithms capable of restoring stability to systems including review of linearized eigenvalue problems or Lyapunov stability methods.
What disappoints me is America’s lack of engineering aptitude with computational technology. Most American engineers prefer the hands-on hardware development approach. But the Newton-Euler EofM are quite capable of solving non-relativistic problems easy, fast and accurately. Good to see more development in the biomechanical world too. I was one of the first applicators of ADAMS technology to biomechanical phenomena including human in the loop modeling for crash and driving models. I guess it takes time but a lot of this computer technology could have been done many, many years ago.
Thanks for the technical report. Its always pleasing to read issues about computational dynamical systems. Modeling and simulation is a great way for America to regain dominance in industrial production. But its very difficult to kick out the old entrenched ideas and use the new. Maybe your reporting will help that effort.
Allen P. Kovacs, Ph.D.
Senior Simulation Engineer
Robert Bosch LLC
North America Engineering Technical Center
RBNA/ETC3 - Reliability, Materials and Simulation
15000 N. Haggerty Road
Plymouth, MI 48170
Allen P. Kovacs, Ph.D. - 2013-15-1 07:49:11 EST
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