Modern robotics hardware for the hobby market has been reduced to a series of modules, from servos to processors. The only things connecting these together are wire and chassis, and I've been experimenting with using easy to obtain materials to build those chassis. Polycarbonate and polystyrene, polyethylene, sheet aluminium etc were natural choices.
Mark's IO made me think again about the validity of cardboard as a working material, and we began a dialogue that culminated in this collaboration.
The idea is to use a single sheet of craft card and a printed template to create chassis units that connect the electromechanical building blocks together.
We have since iterated over a few changes to the design, incorporating better geometry to give the parts strength, room for cabling and better overall appearance.
The first generation limb mounted on a spare thigh section so I can test the servos...
Mark Nesselhaus was able to replicate three of the pieces so far. If he can do it then anyone can. When using Super Glue please watch the fingers.
Once we had a working prototype chassis, the next job was to get the nervous system up and running.
Mark is now waiting for his 'brain' and 'muscles' to arrive via the postage system (fingers crossed) so he can duplicate the next stage himself... This is the real meat of the project, and forms the interactive part of the cardboard. I'm working on internalising the touch panels for the 2nd generation shell.
The nervous system in action on a first gen limb,attached to my PC. I'd managed to get it working how it was intended - it mimics the biological hallmark of withdrawing from a stimulus, and learning from the experience.
If you watch carefully, you can see that the servos are live and are holding the limb in position until I touch a surface, which it then withdraws from by a short distance. The system will record these motions and tag them to a hierarchical structure so you can 'program' the robot by touch alone. This only requires an MCU, but we are also using a RasPi with a camera and microphone to detect motion and shapes and respond to voice commands.
Testing the system on a Pi revealed the touch panels to be a lot more sensitive, and the cardboard literally came alive. I'm working on a way to integrate both these behaviours into the system.
Origaime - The next generation
The new parts build in exactly the same way as the first set, they fold up from a single piece of cardboard to make a modular piece for the robot. Mark calls this Origaime, after the original robot that inspired everything and the art of folding. :-)
Both these pieces were accomplished using the redesigned saddle that fits over the servo actuator and a stud fitted opposite it to make a live hinge.
The section that joins these together to make active limbs as also made from one piece. This part carries the servos and the stud for the saddle to rotate over. Eventually there will be a range of part styles that can make any articulation you like, not just basic limbs.
This has been reworked to include the servo bearers out of the chassis instead of separate pieces. This better fits the Way of Origaime...
As I said, these parts are modular. Here's the other end being prototyped onto the shell at the body end. I hope hip replacements get this easy in the future.
And the shell itself of course. This features a customisable panel in the bottom which is used to provide ventilation for the electronics and also structural integrity. This part has the greatest amount of stress to deal with and needs to be solid. I chose a pattern I knew would do this, but then I realised this could be used to aesthetic effect, and I'm going over a few designs for graphics in here. Watch this space... ;-)
Here's a picture of what it looks like after a couple of strong beers. Nobody's perfect. ;-)
It needs a lid still, that is for now a simple octohedral dome with a port for the camera.... Read more »