Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why your arms don't suck.

Oooooooo..... me likey:

It's rare I see a product demo video and say, "Man, I wish my life would be longer so I can see the amazing future we will have." While I am fairly certain the yet un-purchasable robot above will be the cost of a small house, it is hard to contain my techno-lust. Having worked with a 6DOF robot before, they can be deceptively hard to program and without running a manufacturing line - the immediate utility of owning such a device is debatable. However, if these do end up being adopted by some manufactures, it does potentially reduce both the time to design/produce and the cost to manufacture consumer products. While this means the already blinding rate which new products are released will continue to accelerate, it also means that the bar for producing mass manufactured devices will also come down. As companies adopt re-programmable manufacturing/assembly tools, creating a new product may eventually be a matter of loading new files into all the machines on the floor. I think that's an exciting future and perhaps one day the "Print" button on your computer may take on a much more powerful meaning.

A small educational comment about the arms of this robot. They appear to be 7 degree-of-freedom arms... which is actually the same number of degrees of freedom that your arms have. If you grab a pole, or place your hand on the wall... without moving your shoulder (or your hand), you still have some freedom over the position of your elbow. But why do we need 7 when objects in the world only have 6 degrees of freedom (x,y,z, yaw, pitch, and roll)? The 1 extra degree of freedom is what allows us to reach around obstacles. If we only had 6 degrees of freedom, there would be only 1 way to reach out to pick up an object. So any obstruction along that path would prevent us from getting our food or some tool we needed to survive. Arms that contain 7 degrees-of-freedom have a dramatically larger operating range increasing their utility in uncooperative environments like the real world. For some reason, I find it quite satisfying that there is a mathematical basis for the evolution of our arms.