Author Topic: Man-Agile Robots  (Read 8120 times)

Offline sanman

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Man-Agile Robots
« on: 04/07/2013 01:32 AM »
Boston Dynamics has released a new video of their Petman robotic platform, which was built for the purpose of testing out the durability of hazmat suits:



It seems like this kind of humanoid robot could be used to similarly test out the durability of space suits. After all, if you're going to send people on a one-way trip to Mars, so that they can spend the rest of their lives exploring the planet, then it would make sense to ensure that their spacesuits are able to go the distance.

But I was wondering if even the robot minus the suit could be useful for space exploration. After all, what better way for robot missions to pave the way for manned ones later on, than for the robots to be as close to human beings as possible, allowing all facets of a manned platform to be tested in advance before sending real human beings.


Man-agile robots might also be more versatile in exploring underground tunnels and caves with irregular surface geometry, where wheels might not be as useful.

The other thing that occurred to be me is that back here on Earth, we live in a world populated by human beings, and most of our environments are designed to accommodate the human form. Therefore, engineering machines that can navigate through our own environments as easily as we do ourselves could then result in a widespread profusion of applications. In which case, this would allow such man-agile machines to be mass-produced and refined to a very high quality of performance with diminishing costs. That in turn could translate into a benefit for space applications.

Machines which could function interchangeably with humans would save on the cost of systems development (ie. one-size-fits-all rather than separate development for man-rated vs fully-automated platforms)


Offline sanman

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #1 on: 04/07/2013 02:56 AM »
Actually, it may also be worth mentioning that Boston Dynamics is working on a more capable version of Petman called Atlas, which is likely to make its debut later on this year:

http://www.bostondynamics.com/robot_Atlas.html


Offline grondilu

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #2 on: 04/07/2013 09:24 AM »
But I was wondering if even the robot minus the suit could be useful for space exploration. After all, what better way for robot missions to pave the way for manned ones later on, than for the robots to be as close to human beings as possible, allowing all facets of a manned platform to be tested in advance before sending real human beings.

I disagree.  The human shape is certainly not the most critical aspect of manned space exploration.  It's much more about temperature, pression, water, food and stuff.    Also, to answer your question  "What better way?", I'd say robots need to build closed systems capable of shelting humans.  They don't have to look like humans to do so.   Actually, anthropomorphism can even be an additional burden.  Bad idea, imho.

Yet I understand that you need to make sure a human can use the infrastructure built for them, so some kind of model of a human body must be used.  But a computer model should be enough.  It's actually what is used while designing modern nuclear submarines, for instance.  Remember also that humans have different sizes, so a virtual model has an advantage over a physical one, since it can be parametrized.
« Last Edit: 04/07/2013 09:25 AM by grondilu »
Space is pretty much literally an astronomically-high hanging fruit.

Offline cordwainer

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #3 on: 04/08/2013 01:17 AM »
How much does Petman cost seems you could pay some undergraduate to be a guinea pig for less and get a better idea of the suits comfort as well.

Offline sanman

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #4 on: 04/08/2013 02:44 AM »
How much does Petman cost seems you could pay some undergraduate to be a guinea pig for less and get a better idea of the suits comfort as well.

Mr Bird, the main cost for Petman is in the one-time R&D, but after that it could be reproduced for considerably less. Also note that Boston Dynamics is pursuing Atlas as another anthropomorphic platform, not for mere testing of suits but as system for navigating rough terrain and possibly making use of tools built for people. Other than building a mechanical mountain goat, this may be the best way to traverse the roughest terrain where tracked vehicles are useless.

Offline cordwainer

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #5 on: 04/08/2013 03:03 AM »
Merely an opinion but an anthropomorphic form is not necessarily well suited to traveling on rough terrain. Bipedal robots have balance issues and the bipedal form is merely a jack of all trades and master of none when it comes to exploring its environment, be it swimming, crawling or climbing.

Offline grondilu

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #6 on: 04/08/2013 12:24 PM »
Mr Bird, the main cost for Petman is in the one-time R&D, but after that it could be reproduced for considerably less. Also note that Boston Dynamics is pursuing Atlas as another anthropomorphic platform, not for mere testing of suits but as system for navigating rough terrain and possibly making use of tools built for people.

I sincerely think this is just an excuse, i.e. just the "official" goal of the project, but the truth is they just have fun building terminator-like robots.

It's not so odd to think that scientists sometimes work with the army with false motivations.  It happened with Orion, at some point the project was supposed to be used as a weapon but everybody knew, including the high-ranked officers, that it was really for space exploration.  It was the opposite of the cliche of a civil project turned by army into a weapon.
« Last Edit: 04/08/2013 12:25 PM by grondilu »
Space is pretty much literally an astronomically-high hanging fruit.

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #7 on: 04/08/2013 02:44 PM »
How much does Petman cost seems you could pay some undergraduate to be a guinea pig for less and get a better idea of the suits comfort as well.

You can't plug graduate students into an electrical outlet.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #8 on: 04/08/2013 02:46 PM »
Merely an opinion but an anthropomorphic form is not necessarily well suited to traveling on rough terrain. Bipedal robots have balance issues and the bipedal form is merely a jack of all trades and master of none when it comes to exploring its environment, be it swimming, crawling or climbing.

Rough terrain would include swimming, crawling, and climbing.  A jack of all trades approach to this problem is appropriate.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline sanman

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #9 on: 04/08/2013 04:44 PM »
Rough terrain would include swimming, crawling, and climbing.  A jack of all trades approach to this problem is appropriate.

Exactly - it's not like you can swap robots mid-mission depending on what type of terrain you encountered.

Offline cordwainer

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #10 on: 04/11/2013 07:47 PM »
While it is cheaper and easier to not have to switch out robots for different missions there are many quadruped and multi-pedal animals who have a greater mastery of different environments then humans. Insects and mustelids are good examples of these. Humans are poor swimmers and climbers when compared to some of these nature based designs. Also insect and ursine based designs might be better suited for load intensive designs. Robots normally weigh more than their organic counterparts and in those cases where you have light-weight designs there are usually some compromises in regards to power or efficiency when compared to organics. Also in some cases for specific missions and uses using different types of robots that are part of a common robotic delivery system is safer and more cost-efficient.

Offline RanulfC

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #11 on: 04/11/2013 07:58 PM »
How much does Petman cost seems you could pay some undergraduate to be a guinea pig for less and get a better idea of the suits comfort as well.

You can't plug graduate students into an electrical outlet.
Well you CAN actually but it's frowned upon and not generally considered "good-form" and makes them rather surley afterwards...

Randy
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Offline cordwainer

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #12 on: 04/11/2013 09:56 PM »
Which brings up another point, fuel sources for agile robots. How do you make the extension cord long enough? Solar cells, fuel cells, nuclear thermocouples, ultracapacitors, grail engines all have their advantages and disadvantages. The most telling disadvantage is that they usually can't fuel up just anywhere like animals do. What kind of progress have they made in energy sources and efficiency with agile robots of late?

Offline sanman

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #13 on: 04/11/2013 10:25 PM »
Which brings up another point, fuel sources for agile robots. How do you make the extension cord long enough? Solar cells, fuel cells, nuclear thermocouples, ultracapacitors, grail engines all have their advantages and disadvantages. The most telling disadvantage is that they usually can't fuel up just anywhere like animals do. What kind of progress have they made in energy sources and efficiency with agile robots of late?

Well, you saw the LS3 moving independently without an extension cord, since it's powered by a gasoline engine (hence the noise). Fuel cells would probably be quieter, though.


Online docmordrid

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #14 on: 04/11/2013 11:53 PM »
I would point out that for ~4 years UCLA has been working on nanotube artificial muscles that regeneratively return most of of the applied contraction charge to the power system when they relax. Sub bundles of those in for the servomotors etc. and....
« Last Edit: 04/11/2013 11:59 PM by docmordrid »
DM

Offline sanman

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #15 on: 04/12/2013 02:34 AM »
Yeah, nanotubes are just the most recent iteration of that. Before that there were electropolymers which also similarly contracted, though not with such an efficient work cycle as the nanotubes.

Offline QuantumG

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #16 on: 04/12/2013 02:36 AM »
I never saw anywhere to buy them in more than tiny quantities.

What's this got to do with space again?
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #17 on: 04/13/2013 12:38 AM »
On Mars a robot could be powered by methane/LOX or CO/LOX.  I suspect they can use batteries similar to those for electric cars.

Online Stormbringer

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #18 on: 10/12/2013 05:40 AM »
i have read of these myomer like artificial muscles. they are intriguing but...

do they retain their polymer flexibility at space or martian temperatures? would they need thermal networks to keep them pliable? do they degrade in UV or other radiation environments? they are currently 80 times as powerful as actinin myolin fiber inspiration. and potentially they will be several thousand times as strong. but that does not really necessarily equate to superior over all strength as compared to an organic muscle.
« Last Edit: 10/12/2013 08:28 AM by Stormbringer »
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Offline A_M_Swallow

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Re: Man-Agile Robots
« Reply #19 on: 10/12/2013 09:19 PM »
If you are building a Man-Agile Robot make sure that it can climb a ladder.  That is the basic advantage of 2 legs over 4 legs - assuming both designs have arms.

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