ROBO RAVEN TAKES FLIGHT
Leonardo da Vinci would have been fascinated by the work of
scientists from the University of Maryland who recently took a
major step towards artificial bird-like flight.
Professors S.K. Gupta, Ph.D. and Hugh Bruck, Ph.D., have built
the first-ever bird robot with independently-moving wings. This
development makes the robot’s flight so acrobatic and
maneuverable that their “Robo Raven” can do dives and flips, and
was even attacked by a hawk. To make their robot feasible, Gupta
and Bruck not only had to engineer all of the robotic control
systems to behave like a bird, but they also had to use advanced
manufacturing technology such as 3D printing with design
inspirations drawn from nature.
Australian artist and
builder Geoffrey Drake-Brockman wants to create
four life-size robot
ballerinas and teach them
to dance the “Coppelia”
ballet which is about a
clockwork girl. Why make
robot ballerinas? Well, lots
of reasons. According to
• It’s spooky and
beautiful. These robots look a
bit like scaled-up clockwork
ballerina music boxes with an
added “cyborg” factor. They are very strange, eerily-attractive
devices that fall outside any regular category.
• It’s awesome technology. Here are handmade robots
developed from scratch without any assistance from NASA or
Honda. They use all custom circuit boards, firmware,
communications busses, control software, lasercut aluminium
skeletons and motorized joints, and a unique and beautiful form
based on a body mould of a real live prima ballerina.
• It’s art that’s just gotta be done. It’s an extension of a long-standing series of art projects with robotics that I have been
running for several years, starting with “Floribots.” Humanoid robots
are the ultimate pinnacle of robot making, and here we can make
a batch of them and see what they look like dancing!
• It’s important. I think that by dealing with robots at this level
– artistically – we can better work out how we feel about them,
what their limitations are, how robots fit into the human world.
Other robot projects are military oriented or only deal with the
“geek” aspect. Here, we are looking at the graceful, beautiful, other
possibility of robotics.
The Coppelia Project robots are specially designed to
learn and perform the movements of classical ballet. They can
spin “en pointe,” move their waists, arms, and head. They
cannot walk, and their hands do not have grippers to pick
things up. They are optimized only as ballerina robots.
The Coppelia robots are taught ballet movements by
having their arms, head, and torso physically moved through a
ballet sequence by a ballerina trainer.An onboard computer
captures the motion so it can replay it later, in various dance
Brockman obtained the support of the WA Ballet, a
major national ballet company. With the assistance of its
principal dancer, Jayne Smeulders, a full set of body moulds of
a real ballerina standing en pointe were cast. Much research
has been done with Smeulders into the movement
requirements for robotic ballet.
A working set of prototype robotic arms has been
handmade and tested with the electronics and software to
achieve human motion capture and replay.
Two ballerina robots are already partly assembled (at the
time of print). One is complete with high-gloss lacquer paint
and a fully polished aluminium skeleton; the other one has
unpainted panels and an unpolished skeleton. There are
silicone molds to cast the rest of the body units.
CAD design files are utilized so more aluminium skeleton
parts can get laser-cut. Circuit boards and embedded software
have been developed and tested. Sufficient boards for four
robots have been assembled and Flashed with software. A fully
customized motion editor and joint control suite of software
22 SERVO 06.2013