Archive for the ‘Cybernetic Animals’ Category

1979 – “Rodney” Self-Programming Robot – David L. Heiserman (American)


"Rodney", the Self-Programming Robot is based on the book How to Build Your Own Self-Programming Robot by David L. Heiserman [TAB, 1979].


ByRamiro Molinaon September 18, 2013
 This book is geared towards those that have good knowledge of electronics and are willing to jump into a project that involves CPU based control. It outlines how to build a wheeled robot controlled by an Intel 8085 CPU, programmed by hand in binary using an array of switches that bumbles around a room on its own.


ByBenjamin Graylandon November 26, 2000
If you have an interest in robotics, and a decent knowledge of electronics, then this book is certainly worth reading. Despite its age, the information it provides is applicable today.
Heiserman tells of his own robots, specifically Rodney, who can program himself. One example given was of Heiserman handicapping Rodney, by scratching his processors and removing one of his wheels – Rodney learned to move about efficiently in a short period of time, with no assistance. Similar anecdotes are spread throughout the book.
But most importantly, the book tells the reader how they can construct a robot similar to (or exactly the same as) Rodney. Schematics, wiring diagrams and so forth fill a large portion of the book – providing a clear method for construction.
Overall, this is certainly an interesting book. Even if you don't plan to build yourself a robot, the anecdotes are both entertaining and amazing enough alone.


Classes Of Robotic Self-Learning. Source: here.

It is useful to define intelligence as in robotics according to David L. Heiserman 1979 in regards to the self-learning autonomous robot, for convenience here called "Rodney".

    While Alpha Rodney does exhibit some interesting behavioral characteristics, one really has to stretch the definition of intelligence to make it fit an Alpha-Class machine. The Intelligence is there, of course, but it operates on such a primitive level that little of significance comes from it. ….the essence of an Alpha-Class machine is its purely reflexive and, for the most part, random behavior. Alpha Rodney will behave much as a little one-cell creature that struggles to survive in its drop-of-water world. The machine will blunder around the room, working its way out of menacing tight spots, and hoping to stumble, quite accidentally, into the battery charger.

    In summary, an Alpha-Class machine is highly adaptive to changes in its environment. It displays a rather flat and low learning curve, but there is virtually no change in the curve when the environment is altered.

    (2) BETA CLASS

    A Beta-Class machine uses the Alpha-Class mechanisms, but extends them to include some memory – memory of responses that worked successfully in the past.

    The main-memory system is something quite different from the program memory you have been using. The program memory is the storage place for Rodney’s basic operating programs-programs that are somewhat analogous to intuition or the subconscious in higher-level animals. The main memory is the seat of Rodney’s knowledge and, in the case of Beta-Class machines, this means knowledge that is grained only by direct experience with the environment. A Beta-Class machine still relies on Alpha-like random responses in the early going but after experiencing some life and problem solving, knowledge in the main memory becomes dominant over the more primitive Alpha-Class reflex actions.

    A Beta-Class machine demonstrates a rising learning curve that eventually passes the scoring level of the best Alpha-Class machine. If the environment is static, the score eventually rises toward perfection. Change the environment, however, and a Beta-Class machine suffers for a while, the learning curve drops down to the chance level. However, the learning curve gradually rises toward perfection as the Beta-Class machine establishes a new pattern of behavior. Its adaptive process requires some time and experience to show itself, but the end result is a more efficient machine.


    A Gamma-Class robot includes the reflex and memory features of the two lower-order machines, but it also has the ability to generalize whatever it learns through direct experience. Once a Gamma-Class robot meets and solves a particular problem, it not only remembers the solution, but generalizes that solution into a variety of similar situations not yet encountered. Such a robot need not encounter every possible situation before discovering what it is suppose to do; rather, it generalizes its first-hand responses, thereby making it possible to deal with the unexpected elements of its life more effectively.

    A Gamma-Class machine is less upset by changes and recovers faster than the Beta-Class mechanism. This is due to its ability to anticipate changes.

Robotics: Robot Intelligence: An Interview With A Pioneer
Posted here on 2008-06-06 @ 19:28:20 by r00t.


A short and informal email interview with a pioneer in the field of hobbyist robotics, David L. Heiserman.

Mr. Heiserman is the author of six volumes on the subject, published by TAB Books over a span of 11 years, from 1976 to 1987. These books describe, in detail, several robotics and simulation projects he developed during those years. Each was written and designed in such a manner as to allow the reader the ability to follow along and construct each project themselves.

However, the books aren't plans so much as they are guides. They form a complete encyclopedia for a compelling subject of study, which Mr. Heiserman has termed "Robot Intelligence" and/or "Machine Intelligence":

Build Your Own Working Robot – #841 (ISBN 0-8306-6841-1), HB, © 1976
How to Build Your Own Self-Programming Robot – #1241, (ISBN 0-8306-9760-8), HB, © 1979
Robot Intelligence…with experiments – #1191, (ISBN 0-8306-9685-7), HB, © 1981
How to Design & Build Your Own Custom Robot – #1341, (ISBN 0-8306-9629-6), HB, © 1981
Projects in Machine Intelligence For Your Home Computer – #1391, (ISBN 0-8306-0057-4), HB, © 1982
Build Your Own Working Robot – The Second Generation – #2781, (ISBN 0-8306-1181-9), HB, © 1987

I first read these books as a boy in grade school, and continued to study them periodically through high school. As an adult (now almost 35 years old – where did the time go?), I collected the set for my library. Along the way, I wondered what Mr. Heiserman did with his robots, and whether he planned on publishing anything more about them or his experiments. This interview and other email conversations with him have helped to answer these  questions.

PG: What, and/or who, inspired you to pursue the research of machine intelligence?

DH: I saw the robots in sci-fi films of the 50s and 60s, and I wondered how it would be possible to build one.

PG: Was Buster the initial platform for your research, or were there prior (but unpublished) platforms and/or systems you used prior to Buster?

DH: There was a prior version in 1963. I can't remember the name, but it was strictly radio controlled — vacuum tubes, no less.

PG: During the period your books on robotics and machine intelligence were published, TAB Books seemed to provide a haven for similar authors. Did they provide or do anything special to encourage this?

DH: No.

PG: Were you ever in contact with any of the other robotics experimenters (published by TAB or otherwise) during the period your books were published?

DH: No.

PG: Rodney seemed to anticipate the experiments carried out in "Robot Intelligence" and "Machine Intelligence". Were these projects inter-related?

DH: The books are pretty much a technology-based sequence. I had no idea about doing machine intelligence when I did the book on Buster.

PG: Did you ever bring together the software concepts developed in "Robot Intelligence" and "Machine Intelligence" with an actual hardware platform, or did you view the software environments you created as a better avenue for development of your ideas on machine intelligence?

DH: "Projects" was an attempt at hardware implementation, but I was more interested in computer simulations by this time. I never published my work for several weak reasons; one of which was that I was beginning to catch so much nasty flack from the amateur and quasi-professional AI community. I won't go into all of that, but let's just say I am enjoying some quiet satisfaction today.

PG: Why was the decision made to create the second generation Buster as a "hard-coded" robot, rather than continue with programmable machines as represented by the earlier Rodney?

DH: Well, I think it was because I was losing a segment of people who were not sophisticated enough to do any programming.

PG: What are the major differences between Buster as described in the original "Build Your Own Working Robot", and the Buster described in "Build Your Own Working Robot – The Second Generation"?

DH: Second Generation had better hardware designs.

PG: Whatever happened to Buster (I-III)?

DH: Buster I is somewhere down in the crawlspace of my house. The others were scrapped or given away a long time ago.

PG: What about Rodney?

DH: I gave him to a high school science class. I imagine it is gone.

PG: Do you have any current photos of Buster and/or Rodney (assuming they still exist)?

DH: No.

PG: Were any other later hardware platforms built (but left unpublished)?

DH: Rodney had a short-lived expression as a commercial product sometime in the early-to-mid 80's. It was the RB5-X, manufactured by RB Robot Corp in Golden, Colorado. I was rather well compensated for the work, but the company and my compensation soon evaporated.

PG: Are you still involved in robotics and/or machine intelligence as a hobby or otherwise?

DH: No. But I like to tinker with my own version of artificial neural networks.

PG: Do you intend on writing any further books on robotics in the future?

DH: Not as a hobby machine. Over the years, I've used my models of machine intelligence to play with ideas about extraterrestrial intelligence.

PG: Are there any thoughts or advice you would give to today's robotics and/or machine intelligence enthusiasts?

DH: Let a machine think for itself. Let a community of machines think for themselves and share their knowledge and skills.

But keep your hand on the plug.

I feel that Mr. Heiserman's work is still relevant for today's robotics hobbyist, especially for those interested in machine learning. His techniques and programming methodologies can be easily applied to modern microcontroller and PC-based systems. There are many avenues available to explore in this research, and Mr. Heiserman has forged a path ahead of us to follow. If you are interested in robotics, you owe it to yourself to pick up a volume or two of his books, and explore.

Andrew L. Ayers, March 2008

The RB5X Connection:

Heiserman also wrote some software for the personal robot RB5X.  From an interview …

RN: Did you ever consider taking any of your robot designs commercial as kits or assembled robots?

DLH: I never did it on my own initiative, but Rodney appeared on the market as RB5-X. It was advertised as educational tool, and we had a couple of RB5s running around in the science center here in Columbus. The company was RB Robot, Inc., in Golden CO. When RB when bankrupt, someone else bought the rights and inventory. I don't think the machine is around anywhere these days. I was just a token consultant for the company, anyway.

David Hieserman had already built "Buster" the robot, but was developing "Rodney" the "Self-Programming" robot at the time. RB5X software utilized "Rodney" technology.

The RB5X robot comes with what the company calls Alpha and Beta level self-learning software. This "Artificial Intelligence" software, developed by David Heiserman allows your RB5X robot to learn from it's experiences.

Self-Learning Software / Artifical Intelligence
The RB5X comes complete with "Alpha" and "Beta" levels of self-learning software, which which empowered the robot to absorb and employ information from its surroundings. Developed by leading robotics author David Heiserman, this software allows RB5X to progress from simple random responses to an ability to generalize about the features of its environment, storing this data in its on-board memory.
Self-Learning: This small, first step toward true "intelligence" enables the robot to learn from its own mistakes. For example, you could set the RB5X down in a room and let it roam about randomly. It will probably run into walls several times, perhaps a desk, and maybe even a person. As it rolls around the room, it will "learn" in its own computer-like fashion where the obstacles are in a room, thus avoiding them in the future. The self-learning software are on "Alpha" and "Beta" levels, which were developed by the robotics author David Heiserman for the purpose of giving robots a simple way to "learn" from their experiences, somewhat like humans do.

See other early Mobile Robots here.


1959 – Cybernetic Mice play Hockey – Mullard (British)

An early example of multiple robotic creatures operating together. Other than light and touch sensors, there's no other apparent interaction with them. Possibly an early but simple example of swarm robotics and collaborative robots.

English translation of article text:

To emphasize wont in machine control, a British firm [Mullard] of electronic devices has created these mechanical mice playing hockey on the ice. Each mouse is equipped with a photoelectric cell. Circuits and polarized magnetic lines of force, located under the floor, move the mice to the hatch into which they let the ball.

Source: La Tecnica Illustrata, March 1959.

Per dare risalto ai suol controlli per macchine, una ditta britannica di apparecchi elettronici ha realizzato questi topolini meccanici che giocano a hockey sul ghiaccio. Ciascun topolino e munito di una cellula fotoelettrica. Circuiti polarizzati e linee magnetiche di forza, situate sotto il piano, fanno muovere i topolini verso la porta nella quale devono far entrare la palla.

The Mullard logo.

See all the Cybernetic Animals and Creatures here.


1959 – Sverdlovsk Cybernetic Tortoise – (Soviet)

English text translated from the original German: (for pictures and diagrams, see pdf below)

The Cybernetic Model "Tortoise"
Cybernetics – In recent years, a new science was born. It enables machines to replace with highly skilled human labor, eg by electronic calculators. These machines are very complicated in structure, and only specialists with high qualifications to deal with them properly.
To the study of cybernetics are very well cybernetic models with information stores, which the animal brain can exert partial analog functions. One such model is the "turtle" developed by the Institute of Automation and robot of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Publication of its construction in the magazines "knowledge is power" and "Radio" No. 3/1958 encouraged the study groups for robot and automatic Young engineer at the stations in Sverdlovsk region at this, even to make such a model.
Figure 11
View of the model
The present article is roughly the construction of such a "turtle" described, it is very easy as standardized components can be used.
The main task of this model is to help the students of the upper classes while the basics of automation and cybernetics studieren.1
The behavior of the "turtle"
Observed the movements of the "turtle" obstacles creates the impression that they possess animal-related reflections. Reacts to light you on audio signals and also bumping into.. Though primitive, but it has an organ of sight, hearing a , a sense of touch and memory (memory with a conditioned reflex can be briefly formed).
Here is the proof of their sensitivity to light., The "turtle" moves in a circle on their base until they discovered the source of light is the light beam detected, it moves straight to the lamp to the visual system consists of a photoresistor This photo resistor switched on.. light on the relay d 1 the control magnet (Part VII) from, so that the move can "turtle" straight. Here comes the "turtle" an obstacle, they returned a short run to move again after a little sideways rotation forward. This process is repeated as many times until a way is found to get around the obstacle.
Audio signals to the "turtle" reacts in the following way: If a whistle is given, it will stop for about a second.
The interesting thing about the "turtle" but their "memory", which is the formation of a conditioned reflex of importance. A conditioned reflex occurs whenever different, but at least two stimuli are combined. For the "turtle" the combination of sound and shock stimuli was chosen. Exceeds the "turtle" an obstacle and at the same moment you will hear a whistle, the result is a conditioned reflex. Now "suspects" the "turtle" at every whistle a
1 The "Turtle" is a principled solution for a cybernetic model that responds to three stimuli and can emerge a "conditioned reflex". There are of course also other variants, you can work with transistors that use other relays and also make the program more extensive. However, this model is to encourage the work of communities of our country to deal with such problems and also to develop new technical solutions in creative work.
Obstacle and executes the corresponding movements to bypass the obstruction. After a certain time (this time is determined by the corresponding timer) goes out of the conditioned reflex again, if not both stimuli occur simultaneously again.
Cybernetic models have generally fulfill an experimental feature. With them it is possible to simulate individual processes of the nervous activity of the living organism. Analogies are derived from the behavior of living organisms and machines for the development of automatic information processing systems is of utmost importance. This makes it possible logical actions performed by the person on the basis of information to transmit cybernetic machines or mechanisms. This has great significance for the growth of labor productivity. The introduction of automatic regulation and control in the production always leads to a significant acceleration of production and to increase the quality. Automated systems and aggregates react precisely, not tired and are less sluggish than man.
The circuit of the "turtle"
In the overall structure and the "turtle" there were the following problems to solve:
1 Recording the information (light, sound, shock). Forward to a computing element and storing the information in the formation of the conditioned reflex.
2 Realization of the output information by movement of the drive and control mechanisms. To achieve these objects both electronic and electro-mechanical units are required.
The schematic diagram (Fig. 12) shows the circuitry recording, processing and transformation of information into control operations. For a better overview, the individual units were included only in the block.
Part I
As a photo sensor resistor is used. It is also a photocell or a photo element to use, but then an electronic amplifier is required. The potentiometer 1M ohms lin is used to control the sensitivity of the photoresistor. The sensitivity
11 part
As a simple two-pole contact feeler is used. By the contact of the circuit of the left coil of the relay d 2 is closed when pushed. This is triggered by relay d 4 and d 5, the backward and sideways movement. The timer IV (Z 1) finished the operation after a short time.
Figure 13
The photoresistor circuit for Part I
24V Figure 14
Circuit of the touch probe for Part II
Figure 12 a schematic diagram for the technical operation of the turtle
Part III
As a probe microphone (single crystal microphone) is used. A two-stage amplifier where the incoming audio signal is enhanced in that a rectifier bridge in the left coil of the relay 3 d, a corresponding current flows. It is recommended that the sound frequency of the amplifier set so that only signals of a particular frequency will be processed in order to avoid interference from external noise.
Figure 12b with this circuit for the relay d 1 and d 4 maneuverability at around obstacles can be increased
is set so that the photo-resistor is not responding to diffuse light. For this reason, the use of a simple lens (Fig. 18) is very convenient.

Figure 15 circuit of the microphone amplifier for Part III (the tubes correspond about our EF 14)
When switching the relay relay d 3 d 6 is turned on and brought the turtle briefly to a halt. The duration of this operation is controlled by the second timing element (Z 2).
Part IV
The two timing elements Z 1 and Z 2 have a memory function. The incoming signal triggers an operation and will be for a short time (the duration is determined by the combination of C 2, R 6 set) is stored. No signal, the circuit for both windings of the relay d 2 and d 3, and C 2 is interrupted current. If a signal that flows in the left-hand winding of the relay power d 2 or d 3, and switched by the relay. Here, C 2 invites to over R 6 and the glow lamp ignites. Thus, the circuit of the right coil of the relay is closed briefly and the process ends. The circuit is therefore only briefly closed because it is unloaded immediately after switching the capacitor C through R 1 second For this circuit polarized relays are provided with zero position. However, it can be used with two windings, simple relays, however, the circuit has to be changed.
Figure 16
Circuit of the timers (Z 1, Z 2) of Part IV
Part V
The timer Z 3 is required to form the "conditioned reflex." If simultaneously on II and III, a signal, then the relay d 4 and d 6 set the grid of the tube for a short time to ground and discharging the capacitor C 10 . makes the anode current and the relay d 7 increases attracts. According to charging of C 10 drops in the tube again, the anode current., the time for charging of C 10 corresponds to the duration of the "conditioned reflex" (for the present model were about two minutes selected).
Figure 17
Circuit for the timer Z 3 in Part V
Part VI
As a drive motor an electric motor is used 24 V with the field winding. Ports 1 and 2 are for the field winding and are used to change the direction of rotation by the relay d 5 reversed. Via the terminals 3 and 4, the armature of the motor is fed.
By Relais d 6 is the exchange Contact 6b in a sound, the power supply is interrupted to the collector and the model stopped for a short time. The speed should be about 5 to 10 cm / s. With appropriate variation of the circuit can be used also a Permamotor.
Part VII
This part constitutes an electromagnet by means of which the circular motion of "tortoise" is controlled. Smaller no light on the photoconductor, then the circuit of the electromagnet is closed. This
Figure 18 look for the photo resistor
Figure 18a The turtle Elsie
On the shell of the turtle a candle (1) had been secured, a second candle (2) was placed at some distance. Between the candle and the turtle was a barrier (3). The shutter of the camera was opened and the turtle was left to itself. Your path is recorded in the photo. (4) starting position of the turtle (it starts moving toward the light source). (5) collision with the obstacle. (6), bypassing the restoration of the obstacle and movement direction of the light source. (7) The turtle happened to approach very close to the candle, the light was quite strong, the turtle was forced to retreat, they bypassed the candle. (From: IA Poletayev: Cybernetics German VEB Verlag der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1962, page 233.)
Figure 19 Base plate with drive and control
is given to the steering wheel, a rash of 20 °. In light relay drops d 1, and the steering wheel gets a straight-ahead position.
The mechanical structure
The "turtle" has an oval shape and the drive control is initially in the size of 220 mm X 290 mm. Built on the base plate. Assembly of electronic equipment should be done only when the drive and control function properly.
The chassis is composed of three rubber wheels, the diameter should be about 50 to 60 mm.
The Figure 19 shows the basic mechanical structure of the drive and the controller. For driving a double worm reducer was chosen because it allows the use of small gears. The arrangement of the worm gears and is shown in Figures 20 and 21.
Figure 20 Cross-section A A
Figure 21 section B B
7 [28004]
At the intended speed of 50 to 100 mm / s and the given wheel diameter, the rotational speed of the drive shaft does not exceed 20 to 30 U / min. In the example used with 32 and 24 teeth for a motor with 6000 to 8000 r / min and two common worm gears. If other wheels or a different motor is used, the reduction must be recalculated.
Greater friction loss can be avoided if only one wheel is rigidly connected to the drive shaft.
Figure 22 Cross-section C C
The principle of the magnetic control is seen in Figure 19 and 22. The steering wheel is located in a fork, in which a lever is attached. On this lever is effected by the solenoid, the spring, or a control stop. The stop control should be about 20 ° when the electromagnet. The steering wheel by the coil spring is held in the normal position.
Freely edited by a methodical instructions of the station Young Engineers in Sverdlovsk, published in 1959.

 See pdf of referenced chapter here

Sverdlovsk, name of the city of Yekaterinburg, Russia, from 1924 to 1991
Sverdlovsk, Ukraine, a town in Ukraine.

I suspect this Tortoise is from the Russian Sverdlovsk, not the Ukraine.


1966 – Kybernetisches Demonstrationsmodell Schildkröte – Otto von Guericke University (German)

Kybernetisches Demonstrationsmodell Schildkröte
1966 Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg

Als Ergebnis einer fast 2jährigen Arbeit der AG "Regeltechnik" im Haus der Pioniere kann ein kybernetisches Demonstrationsmodell vorgestellt. werden – die Schildkröte. Das Modell wurde bereits mehrfach ausgezeichnet. Hier Dipl.-Ing. Walther und Christine Poethke (Wilhelm-Weitling-Schule) bei der Überpfüfung der Lenkanlage der Schilkröte. (UA)
Die "Eingeweide" der Schildkröte. Sie hat 2 Fotozellen als "Augen", 2 Mikrophone als "Ohren", 2 Motoren zum Antrieb und einen Motor zur Lenkung. (UA)
——–Google Translation————
As a result of almost 2 years of work of the AG "Control systems" in the House of Pioneers, a cybernetic model presented demonstration. be – the turtle. The model has already won several awards. Here Ing. Walther and Christine Poethke (Wilhelm-Weitling-school) in the steering mechanism of Überpfüfung Schilkröte. (UA)
The "guts" of the turtle. She has 2 photo cells as "eyes", 2 microphones as "ears", 2 motors to drive and a motor for steering. (UA)

Original article sourced from here.


1950 – “Tinius” the Cybernetic Turtle – Rice University (America)

Tinius the Cybernetic Turtle c1950 – An engineering student takes a robot through its paces, 1950.  [RH-2013- Although looking like a turtle (tortoise) which suggests being a Grey Walter-inspired machines, With it two "eyes" appearing as though it is fixed to the steering, suggests more that it is just phototropic i.e. it is attracted to and will follow a light source as per Norbert Wiener's Moth.]

In 1920, the 1st Rice Engineering Show draws 10,000 spectators from across the city of Houston (Texas) to Rice's campus. Student exhibits include a "bucking bronco," magnetic stunts, nitroglycerin explosions, X-ray demonstrations and a radio-controlled car. The shows continue to draw huge crowds every other year through 1940. An Exposition of Science and Art held in 1950, 1954 and 1956 expands the audience but is phased out after 1956.

Article sourced from here.