According to a short article in The Engineer Online, a two-meter high robotic snake will be shown in April 2008 at the London Science Museum. This vertical snake has been designed as an interactive sculpture. It uses sensors to react to what are doing its viewers and 'dances' with them. The manufacturer says the robot has 28 'muscles' and 27 degrees of freedom. It also claims two technology breakthroughs: 'the muscle actuation mechanism includes built-in air valves which enable far greater control and scope for movement; and its linear sensors are unique in the world of robotics as they are bus addressable and less susceptible to magnetic interference.' But read more...
You can see above the oscillating robotic snake (Credit: Merlin Robotics).
And here is a close-up of the articulations of the snake (Credit: Merlin Robotics). The two above images have been extracted from a short movie put on YouTube by Merlin Robotics (3 minutes and 13 seconds).
Here is the opening paragraph of The Engineer Online article. "A unique robotic snake developed by Plymouth-based Merlin Robotics working alongside Nottingham Trent University is to go on display at the London Science Museum's DANA Centre. in April 2008. The vertical snake, designed to function as an interactive artwork, includes two technologies which Merlin claims are a world first."
Here are more details picked from a Merlin Robotics news release, Two world firsts for British 'Robosnake' (January 18, 2008). "A 'world first,' the muscle actuation mechanism is breakthrough technology -- the 'muscles' include built-in air valves which enable far greater control and scope for movement. Another world first is the snake's absolute optical position sensors. These linear sensors are unique in the world of robotics as they are bus addressable and less susceptible to magnetic interference. These two new technologies, combined with the software, enabled the robotics experts and Nottingham Trent University to create this 'world first' in compliant robotics. The mechanisms will be able to be implemented into commercial applications.
As you can infer from the above paragraph, the manufacturing was done by Merlin Robotics, but the project was initiated at Philip Breedon Senior Lecturer in Design Technology at Nottingham Trent University. "The Snake project is being supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the 'Designing for the 21st Century' funding scheme. The Nottingham Trent University researchers are one of three teams participating in Emergent Objects, a portfolio of projects funded by the scheme, and which explores design processes through the lens of performance led by the University of Leeds."
A previous news release from Nottingham Trent University, Robotic snake to charm viewers (November 24, 2006) describes the views of choreographer Dr Sophia Lycouris. "This is an elegant robotic structure with human presence and the ability to express emotions through articulate combinations of snake-like movement. By detecting the characteristics of movement, Snake Robot invites its audience to engage in spontaneous dance duets."
And here is a description of the Snake project on the Emergent Objects site. "Snake investigates the extent of interactivity/responsivity between a designed object (an interactive sculpture) and a human agent, modelled on performed engagement. The key objective with Snake will be to design the interface between sculpture and human to facilitate a direct responsiveness that is conducive to a corporeal, tacit engagement, rather than a codified, learnt response. The intention is to work towards an interactive sculpture which can engage a viewer in a 'dance duet', through use of appropriate sensors, both responding to existing mood and suggesting/creating alternative mood."
If you're a fan of robotics, don't miss this exhibit in London starting in April 2008.
Sources: The Engineer Online, UK, January 31, 2008; and various websites
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