Real World Robots

Recently I have heard people I work with saying silly things about robots, such as the fear that they will take all our jobs or worse still turn into Terminators and kill us all.

I could go into a detailed explanation about why this is not so, the real threat is the humans who program and command the robots, but the best thing to do is show you, so here it is:
Part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge 2015 which features the best robots anyone on earth can build doing things that are really hard for robots:
driving a car, going through a door, identifying random objects in their way and removing them, and walking without falling down. Okay, falling down and getting up again.

The video is mostly boring as heck because there is a lot of time spent by the crews to set up their robots and fix the bits that go wrong and so on.  Nope, they won't be taking over anything in a hurry.

Watch ( if you don't fall asleep) and be grateful that copying a human being is so very, very difficult for robots.  Make no mistake, I admire these guys for putting so much work into their machines, but you can see that there is so much more to do.


A Self Repairing Linear Actuator

Warning : technical waffle enclosed. 

I have invented a linear servo that can recover from overloads and reset itself after being overloaded. The design is pretty simple once you get the idea but I will not detail it here until I have checked out the possibility of getting it made or at least some sort of sale of the idea . . . but I'm not holding my breath because ther are so many patents and such for mechanical devices that it might already have been patented by someone else - which is where things get messy:
Unless I tell someone who understands it, the idea cannot be researched - but as soon as I tell someone else there may be no way to keep it under control as in get a little credit for my invention.

The idea is definitely one that would be useful in robotics and machinery in general since normally what happens when a servo is overloaded is that it is broken. End of story, replace broken unit.

My servo device can be triggered with a special function that will reset it once the overload is removed and the servo can then recover and work exactly as previously.  The device can also be programmed with a limited slip feature so that some of the linear force applied to it will be absorbed elastically in a controlled manner.

It also has the ability to adjust it's power according to the force it pushes against although this is not a great variable, it could be very useful in certain circumstances.

I cannot find anything like it using Google search so that is one step in the right direction . . . . . . .


The Black Knight Project

So the story goes, around 1954 an object was seen in the skies of Earth in a polar orbit.
This object has apparently been photographed from space in recent missions and is called “The Black Knight”. Supposedly it has also changed its orbit at times, a preposterous notion if it were space junk or some disused space hardware. 

You can see a whole list of YouTube videos where people drone on for hours and do basic photoshop stuff on the few grainy long-distance pictures of it.

Here are three pictures of it that are repeated ad nauseum on the net.

There are three other images that some say also show the Black Knight but to me they are something else, they don't fit.

– so I took the three “good” ones and designed a shape that fits them fairly well.

I make no claims as to the accuracy of my work here: all I have done is to look at the pictures as an aircraft engineer might and try to replicate (in Blender) what the shape would be if it were something that might fly, or at least resemble the photos. With more time one could probably improve the matching of the shape with photos 2 and 3 but I am not going to bother unless there is some point to it.
The modelling is kept very simple: the profile is traced from the "best" image of it, using it as if it were a near perfect side elevation. After crunching this I tried moving the model around and it just seems to fit the picture best like that which is quite remarkable and unlikely I must confess – but then this is all pure speculation.

Note in the second picture that the cylindrical object embedded in the top seems to be extended and may even be opened, perhaps to permit something inside e.g. a sensor or signalling device to be used?

Okay, maybe now you are thinking “ Hey, is this some top secret US spy satellite -  or maybe even a Russian one? 

I say NO, and here is why: Take a look at US and Russian space gear, specifically, spacecraft that go up, do things in orbit and then come down to land. They all look pretty much like the Rockwell Orbiter (aka “The space Shuttle”) and for one big, very good reason: reentry. 

When you have a shuttle type vehicle coming in, the whole thing gets hot, very hot and all of the leading edges and wingtips get hot enough to melt metals like aluminum. The shape of the shuttle is designed to keep it stable and in one piece during reentry : a layer of special tiles and even more special reinforced carbon parts, all of which are smoothly rounded to prevent heat concentration make it possible for the craft and crew to survive reentry. Even the new uncrewed US spaceplane the X-37B has the same basic design with wing surfaces on the bottom so that there is a large flat surface under it to “surf” its way down where the air is too thin to get lift as normal airplanes do.

Now compare that to Black Knight: sharp pointed wingtips and fins, and an overall shape that looks more like an aircraft than a space vehicle. Even as an aircraft it would be a hard plane to fly as that downward pointing nose is not going to help - well, unless it can "bend" up to straight like the nose of Concorde or other supersonic airliners. If it could and you could retract the cylinder on top completely, you would only have the problem of the engine power needed to reach orbit: even if you packed the whole body with fuels we know of, it would still not reach orbit without help (a big booster rocket), and that only provokes a bigger question: why then make it an aerodynamic form at all? It would not help much reaching orbit from Earth, and unless the whole craft was made of some pretty rare and amazing material, it would only come down as a shower of spacejunk. 

Perspective view

Side elevation with wings levelled

Top elevation

Rear elevation

I have kept the modelling simple, I'm not going to do any more as there are too many questions and problem with the whole story. Assuming that the images are genuine, for the reasons given above I have only questions and no answers.It doesn't even look like any of our experimental  hypersonic planes - so I'm going to to say it is probably a fake. 
No, I am not going to invoke aliens: I will need more good evidence than a few very blurry photos to get me convinced about that.

Oh yes, if you ever need someone to reconstruct plans from photos or pictures, I can do that.
Thanks for reading and beware people in tinfoil hats.


Getting Technical with USB Type C

I'm sure I already posted about this once, but I can't find the post . . . . . never mind . . . . .

A new USB cable is born:
This is the USB Type C connector and plug. It is NOT compatible with existing USB plugs and it has 24 contacts. It will work with the recent USB 3.1 standard and is smaller than the existing USB A  and B plugs.  . . . . . but the big news for me is IT'S REVERSIBLE.

I am puzzled as to why this amazing development took so long to be implemented: in retrospect, it seems so bleeding obvious that
EITHER you make a plug that visibly ONLY goes into the socket one way (and USB A is notorious for causing fumbling because it is NOT clear which way up it goes into the socket) -
OR you make a plug that  doesn't care, a much simpler prospect from the user's point of view . . . .  

Well, you know the routine: soon we will all be using this one.  No, you don't really have a choice.


Humans need not apply

Finally, a well written video about the future of work that points out the obvious without getting into scaremongering or fiction.


Getting Around Pt.2

You think the Ryno is the smallest personal transport possible ? Nope. I'd say this, the Solowheel, is the smallest and also easiest to carry. Check out  the video . .

Go ahead, laugh, . . . . then watch it again.    Look at how small it is.

You could reshape the outside with folding covers so it looked like a suitcase when you carry it , for those of a secretive persuasion. Or maybe teams racing on a bare-bones racing version, with racers crouched above like a speed skier?


Sources . .

For a while now I have been collecting excellent designs, artwork and photos from Scott Lowther's excellent Aerospace Projects Review Blog.
Plans and so on for many amazing flying things I remember reading about can be found on Scott's site, including spacereaft. You relaly have to see some of these designs to beleive them.
 In other posts I have commented on how preposterous fictional aircraft and spaceships annoy me because they don't even look like they would work: well, if you really want to make something that at least LOOKS like it would fly, check out the designs here, from real Aerospace companies.  I have just become a sponspor for Scott and it's worth it if you are a fan of all that sort of thing: for $5 a month you get all the goodies, actually a better deal than paying for each item alone.

This is the RYNO and it is real. Yup. The only problem is that you can't drive it legally faster than a segway even though it is capable of a lot more. The bar at the front is so you can tip it forward and rest the bar on theground when it is parked. It runs on batteries and (of course) has stabilising gyros.
About the only thing more awesome would be to have a model that folded into a small, hand-carry package.  . . . . but then they are probably working on that right now.