Archive for September, 2010

1980 – Hexapod – J.J. Kessis (French)

Teleoperations and robotics: evolution and development Jean Vertut, Philippe Coiffet – 1986

J.J. Kessis at the University of Paris VII developed an interesting vehicle with six articulated legs, with a pantograph, allowing coordination to be carried out mechanically in the plane of the leg. The high compliance of the chassis is required for turning and non-planar ground, which means that good mobility on ground is not possible.

Real-time control of walking By Marc D. Donner

Kessis has constructed a similar six legged machine in France and it is the subject of continuing research. This machine has six legs with two controlled degrees of freedom each. The problem of permitting the feet to move in the direction of the third degree of freedom in order to permit turning is handled by making the lower legs thin and flexible and letting them bend to comply with the terrain. Control is open loop, with the approach taken to gait control based on the analysis performed by Bessonov.

1937 – “Professor Arcadius” – Durand & Decamps (French)

Gaston Decamps participated also in the International Exhibition of 1937, creating with his friend Paul Durand, the "Professeur Arcadius" for the Pavilion of the Toy.

New Scientist 12th Apr 1962

Another modern automaton, this time a writer, is known as Professor Arcadius. He was built by M M. Durand and Decamps and can write a number of sentences programmed in the mechanism. The mechanic can alter them in advance to suit all comers; he makes a snap judgement on each of the Professor's visitors and sets up a fitting reply for the Professor to write.


Gaumont Pathe Archives have a 1937 video of Professor Arcadius at the l'Exposition Universelle des Arts et Techniques.
You have to be registered (free) and logged in to see the preview.  Search for "3744GJ 00005" without the quotes.


See other early Humanoid Robots here.

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1976 – “Mike” “Microtron” -Tod Loofbourrow (American)

Interface Age article pdf here

BOOK REVIEW from early KIM magazine

  TITLE: How to build a computer controlled robot
  AUTHOR: Tod Loofbourrow
  PUBLISHER: Hayden Book Co.  #5681-8    $7.95

If youre looking for a book which presents a nuts and bolts approach to robot construction–you'll want to look at this book!  The author starts virtually at ground zero and presents a very detailed plan (including parts sources) to enable just about anyone who's handy with tools to construct "Mike", a three-wheeled robot.  "Mike" was featured in INTERFACE AGE magazine (April 1977) and is controlled by (you guessed it!) a KIM-1!!!

The book contains plenty of drawings, program flowcharts, and software listings to enable one to duplicate Loofbourrow's efforts or to venture off to their own horizons. (The flowcharts will be a great help to our non 6502 friends)
"Mikes" construction is broken down into three stages. The first stage gets your new "friend" to the point where he can be controlled by a joystick and has no control over itself. Stage two enables your friend start thinking for itself and exploring its new world on its own by means of its new ultrasonic sensors.  In the third stage, your creation gains the ability for limited voice recognition. There are so many ways to expand on "Mike" that all of them just can't be covered in one book. But after your robot is up to stage three, I'm sure you'll have plenty of ideas of your own. This book presents a really practical approach to entry into the field of robotics.

chapter one – extract from book
introduction to "mike"
The question most commonly asked about robotics is, "Why build a robot?" If the idea of having a robot to act as your companion, entertainer, or slave does not intrigue you, perhaps one of the following reasons will. One reason for building a robot is that it is an exciting way to learn about electronics and microcomputers. You can also learn the actual limits of our present technology and perhaps make improvements in it. Other reasons are the fun of building a robot and the excitement of watching your creation "come to life." However, the most important factor comes from an inner curiosity about nonhuman forms of intelligence. Motivation to create this intelligence is the driving force behind most roboticists.
Robots can be thought of as representing a step in evolution. As an evolved, he became more and more intelligent. Now man is atmpting to create intelligence in the form of robots. Robots are almost extension of man's intelligence.
As you proceed with Mike's construction, he evolves in his own way in a sense. He is built in three stages. In Stage I, he is operated by means of a joystick, and he is totally under your control. Unfortunately, If you should happen to drive him into a barrier, he has no provision for resisting your command. In Stage II, Mike becomes independent. He can "see" and "feel" his environment and can react accordingly. In Stage III, Mike gains the ability to hear and respond to whistles and certain voice commands. Stage III also contains various ideas, as yet not implemented, for Mike's further development.

stage I—mobility
In the first stage, the mechanics of Mike are constructed. His basic triangular framework is constructed of angle aluminum. It houses his power supply, which is a 12 V car battery. His mobility is provided by three motorized wheels. Mike is controlled with a joystick that is connected to him by a thin cable. You can make him move at five speeds forward and five speeds reverse, his top speed being about walking speed. He can also be made to turn at angles from 0° to 60° in either direction by rotating his front wheel with a motor.
At this stage, Mike is about 14 in. high and is shaped somewhat like a spearhead. Each side of his triangular frame is 23 in. long. On top of the frame rests Mike's brain, a Kim- 1 microcomputer ("micro" for short).* The Kim directs Mike's operation and allows him to execute your commands. The joystick sends out two voltages to an analog-todigital (A/D) circuit. The A/D circuit converts these voltages to digital values, which are stored in the microcomputer. Through these values, the Kim can determine the turning angle of the front wheel and the speed at which Mike is moving and compare these with your commands. If your commands differ from the actual position of the front wheel or from the speed of the motorized wheels, the position or speed is changed until it meets your command.
I have found that with Mike's three wheels he is powerful enough to push or pull 150 lb or carry over 600 lb with ease. You can test him over a variety of terrains to determine the limits of his capabilities. His three main circuits—the power supply circuit, the speed control circuit, and the directional control circuit —are mounted on the sides of the triangular frame. The Kim- 1 rests on a sheet of 1/2-in. plywood, which is bolted to the top of the aluminum frame. The Kim is connected to three circuits —the power supply circuit, the A/D circuit, and the inverter circuit. The power supply circuit supplies the Kim as well as the logic circuitry with power. The A/D circuit allows the micro to compare commands from the joystick with the actual position of the front wheel. The inverter circuit changes the output of the micro from logic 1 to logic 4. This circuit leads to the speed control and the directional control circuits, which in turn lead to the motorized wheels and directional control motor, respectively. During most of Stage I, Mike remains totally under your control. The only actions of which he is capable are those dictated by the joystick. At the end of the Stage I section of this book, there is a program that provides Mike with a certain amount of independence prior to the second of development. This program is called the self-direction program. The self-direction program causes Mike to move in a predetermined pattern. The pattern can be changed by changing the values in two tables that are stored in the computer. I have included a program for a pattern that forms an asterisk and one that forms a cloverleaf pattern. It should not be hard for you to write programs for your own patterns once you understand the basic concepts of the self-direction program.
At the completion of Stage I, Mike will have become a robot more on the order of a machine than a cyborg (humanoid robot). 

Stage II—independence
In the second stage of construction, Mike becomes independent. Now a true robot, he makes his way about an area totally independent of a controller. Mike looks different from the way he did in Stage I. Around his original triangular framework is an eight-sided frame. Although Mike is still 14 in. high, he has expanded to 27 in. in width and has begun to look like the base of a full-sized robot.
In Stage II, Mike is equipped with ultrasonic "sight." His "eye" is a small, ultrasonic transducer which sends out every quarter of a second a wave of sound inaudible to the human ear. By noting the length of time required for the sound wave to be reflected back to the transducer, Mike can determine the distance of an object in his path. When something blocks his path, he "sees" it with his ultrasonic sensor. He backs up, turns to the right, and proceeds on his way, avoiding the obstacle. The range of the ultrasonics can be varied from 1 in. to more than 10 ft by changing one number in the computer.
If Mike's ultrasonics don't see an object in his path (perhaps because it is too far to one side), contact with the object is made by the main sensory system—the impact sensors. The impact sensors feel that an object is contacting them, and Mike moves away from the object. The impact sensors absorb much of the impact of contacting an object. Therefore, Mike touches objects so lightly that you can actually let him bump into you. Each one of Mike's eight impact sensors contains five ribbon switches sandwiched between two sheets of aluminum. Each sensor is attached to one side of Mike's eight-sided frame.
The reaction that Mike has when one of his impact sensors is hit depends on which sensor receives the impact. For example, if the front impact sensor is contacted, Mike quickly backs away from the object he touched. Then he turns right and proceeds forward. Contact with a side sensor causes him to back up and turn away from the side that was hit. Mike's movements in reaction to each sensor impact are determined by a table of values stored in Mike's "brain." This table can be changed easily to give Mike sensor responses as complex as you wish. The impact sensor responses I include for Mike enable him to seek out and pass through doorways. The system allows Mike to find his way into, around, and out of a room.
On occasion, a low-level object such as a curb may not come into contact with the impact sensors or be in the range of the ultrasonic sensors. In that case, Mike touches the object lightly with a soft rubber feeler. This contact triggers a switch that makes Mike react as he does to an impact sensor hit. The feelers ride about 2 in. above the ground and will detect nearly any obstacle Mike may encounter. Each feeler contains an SPDT-center-off-momentary-contact toggle switch. Two feelers are located near Mike's front, and two are located in back.
At the end of Stage II Mike is an independent robot. Of course, you can take control of him at any time by plugging in the joystick and loading the joystick control program. It is fascinating to watch Mike move around, "seeing" objects before he comes near them and following the behavior patterns that you have programmed.

Stage III-advanced sensory systems
In Stage III, Mike is enabled to recognize and respond to whistles at certain frequencies and to voice commands. This stage is presently being worked on by the author. At all times, Mike is listening. He is comparing any sounds that come into his "ear," (a microphone) with word templates that are stored in the computer. When the sounds match one of the templates to a reasonable degree, Mike determines that he has heard one of the words he knows. Immediately, Mike executes the action or actions specified by the word. For example, if Mike recognizes a "left" command, he turns left. As the voice circuit and program have been tested and improved, Mike has progressed from whistles to words. Whistling at a constant frequency is relatively easy for Mike to discern. Spoken words are much more difficult. A large amount of testing and modification has been necessary in order for Mike to recognize spoken words.
As I have already said, words are matched by comparing them with templates. You form these templates through a special program called the template control program. You can place any reasonably short words or sounds in the templates. The templates are stored in the computer to wait for a matching word or sound to be said. The nature of voice recognition is such that only your commands will be heeded. No one else's voice will match your templates.
The last half of Stage III is devoted to the future plans I have for my Mike. One such idea is for using an image sensor camera. An image sensor camera produces a black and white picture. It could be used by Mike actually to "see" his environment. Through the use of this camera, Mike could also be able to pick out certain objects that he recognizes in his surroundings.
Another system that I plan to add to my Mike is a voice. Mike would be able to respond verbally to voice commands or to talk if it were appropriate. In addition, I am going to build an upper body on Mike's eight-sided frame. I have not yet determined the exact shape that I want his body to assume, although I believe that his height will be about 5 ft.

I am planning to add one or two arms to Mike so that he can manipulate as well as explore his environment. The claws on the arm(s) will contain a type of force sensor so that Mike can apply the ideal amount of pressure to pick up various objects.
Two final additions that I would like to make to Mike are a video terminal and a keyboard. The video terminal and keyboard would be used for testing the image sensor camera and for loading in software. I expect that they will also enable me to create a control language for Mike, with instructions that apply directly to Mike's operation.

* The terms Kim-1, Kim, Micro, Microprocessor, Microcomputer, Computer, Processor, and Mike's brain will be used interchangeably throughout this book.


Article  from Inc. Magazine –  Oct 15, 1996
Are You Raising an Inc. 500 CEO?
Stories of what some this year's Inc. 500 CEOs did as children that suggested they were really entrepreneurs as kids. By Christopher Caggiano

Your son's new best friend has sparks flying out of him. It would have been natural for Tod Loofbourrow's parents to worry about whether their 12-year-old was hanging out with the wrong bunch. As it turned out, his good pal Mike smoked–but only, presumably, as the result of a malfunction. Loofbourrow, who would later launch Foundation Technologies (#340), built the six-foot, 70-pound hexagonal playmate in his folks' basement. Mike–short for "Microtron," the robot's full name–ran on a car battery and understood 10 oral commands. It also occasionally acted on its own impulses: at one computer conference, the creature began racing manically into the audience. At a later such get-together, Loofbourrow himself was stormed by an eager editor from Hayden Books, who signed him to pen How to Build a Computer-Controlled Robot. "I wrote it on yellow pads, and my mom typed it," he recalls. Royalties from the book, which sold 20,000 copies, enabled him to start the business.

1976 – Entropy – Gene Oldfield (American)

Gene Oldfield, began building his first major homebrew robot around 1976. Entropy, as it was called, was a mobile, three-wheeled robot powered by a car battery. A KIM single-board computer was interfaced to the sensors and relays by only seven microchips, which means that most of the processing was done in the computer itself. To give you some idea of the process a homebrewer goes through, we have outlined the steps in Entropy's development:
"I began," says Gene, "with the mechanical construction. Entropy's back wheels were on a common axle, which means that the turning center must lie somewhere on the extended axle. Rather than build one from scratch, I used the axle yoke and wheels from a discarded toy red wagon." The front wheel was motorized and attached by a vertical axle (called the scan). The electrical connections to the motorized wheel were commutated using generator brushes
from a car motor. "Had I wired the wheel and motor instead, the wires would have become twisted and eventually broken from all the turning required to steer the robot." A second motor with gearhead drove a gear on the scan axle along with a cam assembly that allowed the robot to be set in any direction.
"I made the frame of wood," Gene continues, "and painted, waxed, and covered it with copper foil." While not a traditional material for building robots, wood has advantages. It's an electrical insulator; light, strong, easily worked; and it's very simple to attach switches, wires, and terminal blocks as you go along. Also, wood is not as high tech and makes the robot acceptable, more like furniture. The visual impact is an an important design criterion. A robot should be friendly, fun, and nonthreatening. "As a homebrewer, you can get away with a lot and still make your creations legitimate. R2D2's popularity was due, in large part, to being cute."
Gene decided to wire Entropy on a protoboard (also called a breadboard). 'Since I was developing Entropy for the first time," he explains, "I did not know how it was go ing to be wired." The protoboard permits endless experimentation. Once power wires were in place, it took about four hours to connect Entropy's relays using patch cords (wires). "This is both fun and satisfying—you feel that you could emulate anyone's robot by simply changing a few wires." At that point, Entropy was in the same category as the mechanical/electrical rats and turtles of the fifties. It could center its scan axle and stop.
Next, Gene wired the motors, sensors, and relays to the electronic components that interfaced with the on-board computer. Again, because the pattern of connection was not established, he used a protoboard.
Entropy was to operate without external wires, hook-ups, or data links. Data from sensors was processed on board. While doing the dishes and other seemingly simple tasks were impossible, Entropy did have the sensors and memory to be effectively mobile. It could travel from room to room and navigate through doorways. Sonar, using a tone- decoder chip, measured multiple reflections on distances ranging from one inch up to fifteen feet.
The KIM computer on board allowed Entropy to be programmed for motion at over 100 instructions per minute. Operations were performed through the record/playback program, much the way you save, load, and run programs on your computer. In the playback mode, the computer sends out commands, which the robot acts upon.
Since Entropy lacked a tape recorder or disk drive, Gene used nonvolatile RAM. With a special CMOS RAM chip (which requires  very little electricity) and a couple of nicad batteries, he could keep the RAM powered up even when the rest of the system was turned off. The system is both cheap and reliable. Programs are always present. Simply turn on the robot, select a program's starting address in memory, and press go.
Entropy was a successful project. The robot wandered around the house, moving from room to room.

Above extract from the book "Everyone Can Build a Robot Book " by Gene Oldfield and Kendra Bonnet, 1984.

Entropy is on the right.

Source: Infoworld, 8 Nov 192.

Gene Oldfield had the original Robot Repair in Sacramento in the early 1970's.  He's more into Art robots and electric bikes these days, with the Horse Cow Art Collective. See Youtube video below.

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1984 – Moth , a light-seeking robot – Gene Oldfield (American)

Extract from the book "Everyone Can Build a Robot Book " by Gene Oldfield and Kendra Bonnet, 1984.

"The concept behind the Moth is very simple. When you turn on the robot in a  dark room, the photocells have a high resistance rate that blocks the flow of electricity. The Moth does  not move. When exposed to light, however, the resistance is diminished. Current flows through the photocells to the transistors. The transistors act like amplifiers and increase the amount of current. The collectors send this boosted signal directly to the motors, which drive the Moth.

Each motor is connected to the opposite transistor. The reason for this is that when you shine a flashlight at the right cell, you instinctively expect the Moth to move to the right (or toward the light). But it is actually the left wheel that pushes the Moth to the right, and vice versa. The brighter the light source, the faster the Moth moves."

pdf of article.