Der Maschinenmensch

From man
To machine
To machine man

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At bottom, robotics is about us. It is the discipline of emulating our lives, of wondering how we work. Robots always seemed alive, and now they are becoming increasingly human, learning from mistakes and expressing emotions. By imagining and reconstructing our bodies and minds as robots, we discover what amazing machines we are. But as robots mirror our humanity, they also offer deep insights into how we have rationalized our technological ambitions, our sense of wonder at ourselves, and our position in a rapidly changing world. This is my contribution of the more than 500 years old story of humanoid robots and the artistic and scientific quest to understand what it means to be human.

Fig. 1 Robot at current stage (beginning of December 2018)

Der Maschinenmensch (German for robot or literally machine-person) is a very complex machine. Many micro controller communicate in a certain pattern parallel witch each other. It features among other things vision, stereo sound analyzer, speech recognition, speech synthesis, touch keyboard, touch screen, GPS and GSM. The robot is 130 cm tall, weights 25 kg and can bend its torso. Its two arms are quite powerful. Every arm can lift up to 2 kg. The arms are designed to put different actuators on it; currently an Actobotics Parallel Gripper and a upgraded 5-DOF MechaX robot hand, but even a gun would be imaginable if you want to break Isaac Asimov's first law of robotics. The robot is powered by a 12 Ah, 12 V lead-gel battery and propelled by a three wheel drive with 127 mm double plate omni-directional wheels from Nexus Robot, motor type IG420504-2W171R from TRU COMPONENTS with a torque of 2.94199 Nm at 12 V, which make the machine nearly unstoppable. The main frame is made of MakerBeam parts, but there are also a lot of custom made laser-cut, CNC and 3-D printed parts.

Fig. 2 The console, one of the human-machine interfaces of the robot. Not mounted yet on the robot. Screen showing data computed from the RTC.

Fig. 3 Eponym of my robot is the gynoid Maria in the science-fiction drama film Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang, but now it's a more masculinely shaped robot as the term Maschinenmensch is unisex. Image credit:

Below you will see a short video of my robot, showing six months of work. More information about my robot can be found in the BUILD LOGS and in the FILES and COMPONENTS section.

  • Speech recognizer and voice synthesizer

    M. Bindhammer12/15/2018 at 13:41 0 comments

    I am using the MOVI Arduino shield for speech recognition and speech synthesis. MOVI is cloudless and therefore privacy friendly, no Internet or PC connection required. In the little setup below I am testing I2C communication between two Arduino Mega's. A char array will be created by typing some text into the serial monitor. The text will be transmitted to the second Arduino, and MOVI is then doing the text-to-speech synthesis. I still need to experiment with different loud speakers, amplifiers and resonating bodies to get a really beefy sound. 

  • Console

    M. Bindhammer12/12/2018 at 19:32 0 comments

    I managed to finish the design of the so called console, one of the human-machine interfaces of the robot. It consists mainly of a 3.2" touch TFT, two 16 ways capacitive touch keypads based on the TTP229 capacitive sensor with accurate sensing of up to 16 points, an Arduino Mega, a Mega touch TFT shield and some 3-D printed parts:


    To have still access to the already occupied pins or not used pins on the Arduino Mega respectively the TFT shield I soldered angle male headers onto the according pins:

    3-D printed part which holds the two TTP229 capacitive sensor PCB's to form a touch keyboard:

    PCB's wired and mounted:

    Later the two PCB's will be covered by a custom printed Lexan label done by a local printing shop and designed by myself in Inkscape, now only paper label for testing:

    Got further 3-D printed parts today and mounted TFT and Arduino Mega:

    An Adafruit precision DS3231 RTC  is mounted on its back:

    Got the labels and tested the keyboard. It works like a charm even the capacitive pads are covered by the label, which has a thickness of 0.18 mm. Really an easy and reliable solution to build a touch keyboard. If you miss haptic feedback, you can add a vibration motor or a piezo actuator underneath the PCB's or in the enclosure of the keyboard:

    Finished console As you can see, I started already to squeeze out the RTC to get as much as possible information about the robots environment, using some astronomical formulas, inter alia the Gauss's Easter algorithm:

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