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by Jeff and Jenn Eckert
Turning Minutes Into Hours
It's no secret that one of the primary constraints in
mobile robotics is the limited power available from
batteries. A great deal of research is aimed at improving
battery performance, with progress reported in fields
ranging from such novel approaches as lithium-air batteries
to century-old technologies like nickel-iron (Edison) devices.
Another way to tackle the problem is to improve the bot’s
output efficiency, which is the idea behind the M3
Actuation project — a subset of the Maximum Mobility and
Manipulation (M3) program at the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The goal is to achieve a 2,000 percent increase in
overall efficiency. More specifically, it seems that the
current Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) platform
offers only 10 to 20 minutes of untethered operation, and
DARPA wants to extend that to 200 minutes. If you think you have the know-how to come up with a solution, the reward
could be as much as a cool $5 million.
Offering some hints as to how to proceed, it was noted that "DARPA expects that solutions will require input from a
broad array of scientific and engineering specialties to understand, develop, and apply actuation mechanisms inspired in
part by humans and animals. Technical areas of interest include, but are not limited to: low-loss power modulation,
variable recruitment of parallel transducer elements, high bandwidth variable impedance matching, adaptive inertial and
gravitational load cancellation, and high efficiency power transmission between joints." The formal deadline for submitting
a proposal was August 21st, but there is a six month grace period, so it's not too late to put your iron in the fire.
"Contingent on the availability of funds," yours may still be selected. Details are available at www.darpa.mil, but you
can just search "DARPA-BAA-12-52-1.pdf" to locate the pertinent document.
DARPA seeks a 2,000 percent increase in robot efficiency.
Camera positioning system used by researchers at
Georgia Tech's School of Mechanical Engineering.
(Photo courtesy of Joshua Schultz).
Here’s Looking at You
Another area in which bot technology is always subject to
improvement is vision, and some folks at Georgia Tech's Woodruff
School of Mechanical Engineering ( www.me.gatech.edu) have
harnessed the piezoelectric effect to replicate the muscle motion of
the human eye. "For a robot to be truly bio-inspired, it should possess
actuation, or motion generators, with properties in common with the
musculature of biological organisms," observed Ph.D. candidate
Joshua Schultz. "The actuators developed in our lab embody many
properties in common with biological muscle, especially a cellular
structure. Essentially, in the human eye muscles are controlled by
neural impulses. Eventually, the actuators we are developing will be
used to capture the kinematics and performance of the human eye."
According to the developers, the new muscle-like action could
help make robotic tools safer and more effective for MRI-guided
surgery and robotic rehabilitation.
8 SERVO 10.2012