Don’t call it hydraulics

Disney has an big interest in animatronics – just try visiting one of their parks and avoiding it.

These are mainly kept at a very safe distance because either the visitor or the animatronic ‘robot’ are fragile compared to one another. Disney is all about interaction and asked the question – how can the animatronics and the visitors be safe around eachother? Disney Research Pittsburgh approached an old solution in a novel way – by removing some of the most problematic areas of working-fluid actuators in order to make a ‘softer’, friendlier animatronic.

The solution looks at first glance to be hydraulic – pressure lines connect pistons, allowing the actuator drive and the actuation posit to be separated. The system can work with an incompressible or compressible fluid.

The key difference over hydraulics is actually the lower performance – the lower working fluid pressure (100psi) and a unique ‘rolling gasket’ type seal in the pistons. This gasket reduces the problem of ‘sticktion’ (initial extra friction at the start of an actuation movement) to almost nothing, and reduces friction during travel as well. This requires less overall pressurization in the system to achieve smooth motion, and by moving the actuator motors off the robot itself, total mass is reduced, creating a positive feedback where less mass requires less actuation power. There are some design challenges that seem open, though: Continue reading


SciAm article in Creativity-Unleashing

“The creative individual thinks of failure as a new opportunity: “Okay, why did I fail? What was wrong? Let me try to do something else. Let me go forward with it.” “

check it out…

Nothing quite as exciting as systemizing something that is considered inspirationational, and transcendant of whatever you currently have in your mind. This seems to adhere to the critical-mass model. enough raw data crystalizes into new patterns when a critical number of interconnections are formed. Similar to Stuart Kauffman’s ‘Buttons and Threads” model of complex systems.

The thing to take away from this article is simply this: You have to try, and not just think. That means you have to fail, something that 105% of us really don’t like doing. Not only fail, but fail often. I can only assume that this does not include financial collapse or misc. catastrophe, so limit the scope of these experiments somewhat – the first test flight of your a-grav Alero should not be off a quarry ledge. The mythbuster’s model of making a model first is probably a safe bet there.