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The Science of Robosapien

At a glance, Robosapien looks great versus the old school box on wheels with clear dome head. ‘Ooh,’ you say, looks kinda like a muscled storm trooper and the fart button now that’s a hoot. We nod in polite agreement, but behind your back, we snicker at your total lack of appreciation of the advanced robotic theory involved. Robosapien is a modern day turning point in the evolution of robotics and is the first-ever robot based on the science of applied biomorphic robotics. (That’s what you should have been telling friends and family all this time rather than pointing out amusing cat-chasing ability.) Biomorphic robotics stems from Mark Tilden’s innovative new concepts in BEAM technology.

A New Philosophy for Robot Kind BEAM is an acronym for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics and Mechanics. Dr. Mark W. Tilden founded this relatively new branch of robotic sciences in 1989, based on the premise that behavioral-rich robots need not be the wickedly complex projects reserved only for well-funded labs and cartoon villains. Put another way, traditional approaches to creating robots have started with creating a sophisticated brain to maneuver the mechanics of the body.

Though not discounting the incredible engineering feats of robots built this way, most notably the Sony Qrio and Honda Asimo, Mark Tilden strongly contends that this is the wrong approach to take. It’s like trying to emulate a human when modern technology and research can’t realistically copy a bug from your garden. “[It’s] an evolutionary dead end,” says Tilden. BEAM robotics is about taking the bottom-up approach, to start from mastering the simple bug and moving up from there. Rather than attempt to create a centralized robo-brain to process every variable input and spit out a decision (much, much harder than you may think), why not use a system known as "subsumption architecture.’’ Subsumption architecture is a clever technique where the actions of a robot are managed in layers, each layer controlling one facet of the robot’s operation. For example, a low-level layer could be ‘Walk Forward,’ which the robot will happily do until it bumps into something. At this point, the slightly higher level ‘Lift Leg Higher’ kicks in, overriding the ‘Walk Forward’ layer until the robot successfully climbs over the obstacle, at which point ‘Lift Leg Higher’ stops, and the low-level ‘Walk Forward’ takes over again. * Egocentric Bugs So Tilden began building robot bugs on this principle, and more selfish creatures they could not have been. Why’s that? Well Tilden decided that Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics: 1.

No hurt human. 2. Listen to human unless told ‘Do hurt human’. 3. Try to live with that. were antiquated notions that left no room for a good practical joke at parties. So one dark and stormy night he penned Tilden’s Three Laws of Robotics: 1. A robot must protect its existence at all costs. 2. A robot must obtain and maintain access to a power source.

3. A robot must continually search for better power sources. informally known as*: 1. Protect thy butt. Feed thy butt. Move thy butt to better real estate. He justified this robotic declaration of self-interest as the only way robots can start evolving the way humans may have came from guppies looking for a good time by leaving the ocean.

From Bugs to Sapiens Needing to find a lighter-minded group of people from his government and NASA days, Tilden decided to go and join a toy company. Who better than one audacious enough to self proclaim themselves, Wow Wee! It was a great match, and they gleefully began working on toy dinosaurs and bugs based on Tilden’s now renowned expertise. Then came the master project that one could fairly say would change the landscape of robotics altogether. FartDude, later named Robosapien after initial market testing, was to be the culmination of Tilden’s work, finally bringing to bear a humanoid (sapien-like, if you will) robot capable of an impressive list of moves and rude sounds. In Robosapien, you see the basics of BEAM philosophy and technological research. It follows the B as a biomorphic rendition of humans, E for the fact you can’t throw it in a bathtub, A because it’s stylin the latest magazine covers, and one heck of a lot of M going into the robo dancing capability. That’s Mr. Sapien Like no robot ever before, the Robosapien is affordable to the unwashed masses. The Robosapien is a crowning accomplishment when it comes to mobility, power consumption, programmability, and maybe most importantly: hackability.


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