Go to www.servomagazine.com/index.php/magazine/issue/2018/01 to comment on these topics.
Win Big Bucks!
If your robot project is capable of slinging a
paintbrush, note that you still have until April 1 to
register your team for the 2018 Robot Art competition,
with $100k of prizes available. Anyone can enter, and
the stated goals are to “foster innovation in AI, image
processing, and robotics; challenge students to apply
skills in creative ways; integrate aesthetics and
technology; and encourage participation by the public.”
Of course, the prizes — ranging from $2k to $40k —
are what matter. For details, visit
2017 first-prize winner, “House,” by Columbia University’s
Creative Machines Lab.
Robot Drive Innovation
A fairly common drive mechanism used in robotic and
aerospace applications is the Harmonic Drive®: a strain
wave gear trademarked by the Harmonic Drive Company
www.hds.co.jp). Unfortunately, at a basic price of €1000
(about $1,180) each, the device is beyond the budget of
most roboticists in home workshops, as well as in many
industrial endeavors. However, a revolutionary (pun
intended) prototype developed by SRI International
www.sri.com) is expected to be far cheaper and energy
The company describes its newly introduced Inception
Drive as “an ultra-compact, infinitely variable transmission
based on a novel nested-pulley configuration ... It is small
enough to replace fixed ratio transmissions in robots,
where we believe it can cut the energy consumption of
many robotic platforms in half, doubling battery life for
In addition to being infinitely variable (i.e., it has a
“geared neutral” mode in which it would take an infinite
number of input revolutions to cause one output
revolution), the transmission can actually reverse itself
without reversing the motion of the input motor.
SRI’s explanation of how it works will probably leave
you scratching your head and muttering, “Huh?” If you
watch a You Tube presentation by SRI’s Alexander
Kernbaum several times (
uSUrcRsyw), you may be less confused. But maybe not.
Several details still remain to be worked out before a
marketable product emerges, but the device has the
potential to make robots safer, cheaper, and more energy
SERVO 01.2018 9
SRI’s infinitely variable Inception Drive.