Posts Tagged ‘1981’

1981 – ComRo I – Jerome Hamlin (American)

Comro I with Vacuum Cleaner accessory.

Above: ComRo I with the robot pet, Wires.

(Text: Circa 1981)

A bit more utilitarian than robots serving drinks or selling products is Jerome Hamlin's ComRo I. This robot made its debut in the latest Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog. It operates two ways, by hand-held remote control, or by a programmable microcomputer in the robot's head. ComRo I could make life a little easier with its built-in vacuum cleaner, wireless telephone, digital clock, black and white TV, and manipulator arm that can lift up to 10 pounds. The price for such ease, however, is $15,000.

But its purpose really isn't to make life easier, says Mr. Hamlin, who built ComRo I in an abandoned garage. ''It's basically a toy–more recreational than practical.'' So far, Hamlin has sold two ComRo I's to Japan and one to Saudi Arabia. The product may be more technologically advanced than the other robots, but its sales seem to be trailing in the dust.


For those who are not choosy about semantics, the age of the home robot is already here. Last Christmas Neiman-Marcus offered a $15,000 robot that, the depart-ment store said, could open doors, walk the dog, take out trash, water plants and sweep floors. Playboy's publisher, Hugh Hefner, owns a $20,000 robot built by the Android Amusement Corporation of Monrovia, Calif., outside Los Angeles, that can greet guests, disco at parties and ferry drinks.

Revelers at Billy Bob's Texas, a mammoth country and western complex in Fort Worth, were recently joined by Sheriff Bud Longneck, a 7-foot-8-inch walking Budweiser beer can decked out in a flannel shirt, cowboy boots, cowboy hat, neckerchief and badge.

They are all great attention-getters, but they are not true robots. A robot is defined as a multifunction device equipped with artificial intelligence that can be programmed to perform various tasks. Mr. Hefner's robot and Sheriff Longneck are what are known as showbots, radio-controlled contrivances operated in much the same way as model airplanes. The Neiman-Marcus robot, ComRo I, does have a microcomputer that allows it to function as a robot, but all the tasks it is supposed to perform are done by radio control.

In the grand tradition of his-and-hers camels, ostriches and submarines, Neiman-Marcus's robot was not exactly a hot seller. So far only two have been sold – one to the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation of Japan and one to the head of a Saudi Arabian importing concern. Neiman-Marcus also sold four of the robot's $650 radio-control robot pets, Wires.

Neiman-Marcus officials insist, nonetheless, that the robot was a tremendous success as an attention-getter. ''We probably got more response to it than anything we've done in the Christmas catalogue in the last 10 to 15 years,'' said Tom Alexander, vice president of marketing and sales promotion.

Many large corporations such as General Electric have researchers looking into home robotics. As with home computers, much of the real exploratory work is being done by entrepreneurs such as Jerome Hamlin, whose ComRo Inc. of Danbury, Conn., produced the Neiman-Marcus robot, or Gene Beley, whose Android Amusement Corporation made Mr. Hefner's.

See more of the ComRo family of robots : "Bumpy", "Tot" and "Bubble Tot". (to to updated when posts available)

See other early remote-controlled and robotic vacuum cleaners and floor scrubbers here.

1981 – The Walking Gyro – John W. Jameson (American)

The Walking Gyro was conceived and built by John Jameson in 1981. 

Article Source: Robotics Age, January 1985.


John W Jameson
275 E. O'Keefe #7 
Palo Alto, CA 94303

Walking machines generally fall into one of two categories: statically balanced or dynamically balanced. A statically balanced machine maintains stability at every position in its stride by always keeping its center of gravity aboye the region of contact between the machine and the surface.                       

A dynamically balanced machine is generally not statically stable at every stride position and must rely on intermittently applied control forces in order to keep upright. The Walking Gyro seems to fit best into the latter category, but its simplicity relative to other forms of dynamically stabilized walking machines makes it an attractive alternative for home experimentation.
Two characteristics are readily observed by experimentation with any toy gyroscope. One is the gyroscope's inherent stability, as illustrated by its ability to stay upright while keeping only one point in contact with a supporting surface. Another is the counter-intuitive reaction the device exhibits when the gyroscope is twisted about an axis perpendicular to the flywheel spin axis. The Walking Gyro utilizes both characteristics plus a third, gyroscopic precession, to provide a walking mobility base.

Although I have not yet constructed a model of the scale desirable for an experimental home robot, my analysis of the Walking Gyro's dynamics indicates that such a device is feasible. In fact, the analysis indicates that the stability and load-carrying capabilities increase dramatically with scale. Although the principies of the Walking Gyro are somewhat complicated, the basic mechanism is quite simple. Adding velocity and direction control offers a challenging (though not necessarily complicated) task for the home experimenter.  

The Walking Gyro utilizes the angular momentum of a spinning flywheel to perform the following functions: lift the feet, balance during the stride via gyroscopic reaction torque, and move forward via gyroscopic precession. My prototype, shown in Photo 1, is powered by a hand crank and relies on  energy stored in the flywheel to sustain motion.
Figure 1 shows a side view, partially sectioned, of a Walking Gyro in mid-stride.  The housing (1), which contains the flywheel (2), and the gear train (3), is caused to tilt back and forth with respect to the  leg frame (4) by the crank (5) and link (6).                                    

This motion is about the fore-and-aft pivot (7). The legs (8) are attached to the leg frame by the fore-and-aft pivots (9) and the feet (10) are attached to the legs by the vertical pivots (11). Finally, the horizontal bar (12) connects to both legs by the fore-and-aft pivots (13) so that they stay parallel. Note that in this particular presentation, the mechanism is equipped with an adaptor for a crank (14), which is used to bring the flywheel up to operating speed.


Caption  Photo 1. The Walking Gyro caught in mid-step.

Figure 2 details the mechanism's movements. Figure 2a shows the Walking Gyroscope in a neutral position. Figures 2b and 2c show the motion that would occur if the feet were somehow attached to  the walking surface. Figure 2b shows the housing tilting to the left, and Figure 2c shows a tilt to the right. Figures 2e and 2f show what happens if the same conditions of Figures 2b and 2c occur but with the feet free to move. Instead of the housing tilting to the left, the gyroscopic element maintains the vertical attitude of the housing, and thus the left foot is lifted off the surface, conserving the housing tilt angle with respect to the leg frame (Figure 2e).
As soon as the left foot is off the surface, gyroscopic precession causes the housing to pivot about the right foot. The left foot returns to the surface as the crank goes around, whereupon the right foot is lifted in a similar fashion (Figure 20. The housing then pivots about the left foot.
Since the precession about opposite feet is in the opposite direction, the result is a forward walking motion.
This explanation does not adequately account for the Walking Gyro's ability to pick up its feet. The primary aspects of the Walking Gyro's operation are based on the well-established theory of gyroscopic motion.

Figure 1. Cross-section of a slightly altered form of the prototype Walking Gyro.

See images for rest of article.


See full patent details here.

Patent number: 4365437
Filing date: Apr 15, 1981
Issue date: Dec 28, 1982

Toys based on Jameson's patent.

Remote-control to move robot in different directions.

"Hitch Hiker" Walking Robot.

Showing the insides of the "Hitch Hiker" version.



Meccano model of The Walking Gyro.

The Meccano model on the right was built by Bernard Perier from a Meccano set. Gyroscopic reaction force causes lifting of the feet and gyroscopic precession drives the motion forward.

(photo by Stefan Tokarski)

Gyroman 3D-printed by by Jeff Kerr from Make Magazine.




It would be great to see a scaled-up one of these at Burning Man with the driver as the payload.

**Update July 2015 – There’s a rumor that the original designer, John Jameson, is considering a giant, rideable version of Gyroman.

See also the Gyrocycle.

1980-1 – “Teacher” Inflatable Puppet from “The Wall” – Mark Fisher & Jonathan Park (British)

1980-1 – Mark Fisher – Teacher – "The Wall"

The Architects' journal: Volume 196, Issues 14-21 – 1992

The work of mechanical engineer Jonathan Park and architect Mark Fisher, who together form the rock set specialists Fisher Park. This pair met as teachers at the Architectural Association in 1976, a time of radical experimentation. Among their early influences were avant-garde, Situationist-style installations – temporary structures made of cheap materials to  dramatic effect. Inflatables were the most successful and impressive of these.

Cross-overs: art into pop/pop into art by John Albert Walker – 1987 

'Teacher' by Gerald Scarfe and subsequent disillusionment of a rock star – was based on Waters' own experience.  During the performance an enormous wall ( 210 feet wide. 35 feet high) made from 340 cardboard bricks was gradually erected on stage until the Floyd were separated from their audience. A team of eighty men working with the aid of hydraulic lifts was needed to build the wall and seeing it rise was one of the impressive features of the show.

It was designed and constructed by Mark Fisher and his assistants at Britannia Row. (The figures in The Wall contained electric fans so that they inflated rapidly; they were also suspended on wires like puppets so that they moved convincingly.) Two spotlights were inserted as eyes in the teacher's fibreglass head to make his glare a literal one. Other inflatable figures included a mother, an insect- like woman, a victim and a black pig.

See other Pneumatic, Fluidic, and Inflatable robots here.

1981 – Robot Arm with Pneumatic Gripper – Nikolai Teleshev (Russian)

Inventor Nikolai Teleshev watching the operation of an integral robot designed by him.

Any further information on this inventor and robot gripper most welcomed.

1981 – Pneumatic Mannequin Arm – Tim Jones (British)


The arm above is based on an experimental system of pneumatic muscles. Air is forced into the muscle bags, which expand but shrink in length. String tendons link the muscles to the bones, resulting in movement of the limbs. The robot was developed by The Original Android Company [RH-2012-Now defunct], in association with the Royal College of Art, to test the viability of having moving mannequins in shop window displays. The microcomputer on the left drives a series of servo valves, which feed pressurized air to the muscles.

The air muscle used here is possibly the first example of the Netted-type of Pneumatic artificial muscle (PAM).

NEW ARM: Inventor Tim Jones has won a prize for his invention of a robotic arm, which will help  the disabled.

Video clip dated 11.Sep.1981 – see 4min 48 sec into video clip for Tim Jones' robot arm.

Tim Jones went on to develop many more service robots, including the R-Theta mobile robot of 1984 for UMI, which the arm later became the RTX teaching arm (for OxIM).

Tim Jones was involved in service and rehabilitation robotics, for Exact Dynamics in the Netherlands making the iARM.

As from the comment below, Tim is now a freelance designer/inventor responsible for the Harmonic Linear Drive manufactured by Animatics Inc and over the decades has worked on various innovative automation and robotic projects.