When I was in high school I was a fan of MAD Magazine. One of my favorite issues was the one where they compared American and Russian spacecraft. The American one was a sleek, streamlined affair while its Russian counterpart looked like a home-repair plumbing job. Of course we all know how the space race turned out. The plumbers won. These days the game is robots, not spaceships. If the Japanese builds a robot it probably looks like a ‘Wall-E’ and it’s job is to clean your butt better than you can. If it’s Chinese it looks like a Sherman tank and it will sweep your floor. If it’s American…
A quadr0copter is a robotic device which looks like a miniature helicopter with four rotors. It is controlled by a computer which is linked to visual and other sensors giving the device virtual ‘real-time’ observation of its environment. The time from the observation to actuation of a suitable response is remarkable, as evidenced by this video of two quadrocopters tossing a vertically balanced pole to each other. They do it faultlessly, over and over. I would have a hard time doing it once. But then, I’m no robot…
Quadrocopter Pole Acrobatics
Flying Machine Arena
A Space Where Flying Robots Live and Learn
The Flying Machine Arena (FMA) is a portable space devoted to autonomous flight. Measuring up to 10 x 10 x 10 meters, it consists of a high-precision motion capture system, a wireless communication network, and custom software executing sophisticated algorithms for estimation and control.
The motion capture system can locate multiple objects in the space at rates exceeding 200 frames per second. While this may seem extremely fast, the objects in the space can move at speeds in excess of 10 m/s, resulting in displacements of over 5 cm between successive snapshots. This information is fused with other data and models of the system dynamics to predict the state of the objects into the future.
The system uses this knowledge to determine what commands the vehicles should execute next to achieve their desired behavior, such as performing high-speed flips, balancing objects, building structures, or engaging in a game of paddle-ball. Then, via wireless links, the system sends the commands to the vehicles, which execute them with the aid of on-board computers and sensors such as rate gyros and accelerometers.
Although various objects can fly in the FMA, the machine of choice is the quadrocopter due to its agility, its mechanical simplicity and robustness, and its ability to hover. Furthermore, the quadrocopter is a great platform for research in adaptation and learning: it has well understood, low order first-principle models near hover, but is difficult to characterize when performing high-speed maneuvers due to complex aerodynamic effects. We cope with the difficult to model effects with algorithms that use first-principle models to roughly determine what a vehicle should do to perform a given task, and then learn and adapt based on flight data.
Every generation produces explorers and adventurers who strive to ‘push the envelope’. Today the envelope is flying off Alpine cliffs or jumping from helicopter skids wearing a ‘wingsuit’, a sort of ‘batman’ outfit that turns a human being into a soaring creature that hurtles toward the valley below at speeds well over 100 mph. The people who do this are addicted to adrenaline thrills few of us can even imagine. This is living on the edge of the edge…
Ludovic Woerth & Jokke Sommer | YouTube | 25 Jan 13
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For those of you over 40, this is how books used to be produced. They called it “craftsmanship”. The goal was quality, not profit. Esthetic value, not mass-market expediency. You could take one of these things and put it on your shelf (called a “bookcase) where you and your guests could admire and read it any time you wanted. You could loan it freely or even give it away as a Christmas present. Maybe someday, when we reach a new level of technology, we will rediscover the wonder of these simple documents so lovingly made and beautifully designed…
John Carrera | Quercus Press | 2011
________________________________________________________________________________ John Carrera is Proprietor of Quercus Press: Letterpress and Bindery in Waltham, MA.
Many of my friends (and relatives ) enjoy Tobasco sauce on their eggs. I couldn’t imagine a better way to ruin a good egg. If you are one of those people who like to ruin your eggs by dosing them with napalm here’s an interesting video of how the stuff is made. I wonder if the tasters get hazardous duty pay…