Analog Robotic Concepts

Everyone’s getting on board with the 555 timer projects. But [Tom] didn’t just come up with one project, he shared a slew of ideas related to analog robotics. They’re center around servo motor control. You can see in the video after the break he has a pleasing way of sharing a lot of details while also making an easy to view demonstration video. He’ll put up a schematic for about one second and then move on, saving those that don’t care about the details by not droning on.

The first schematic that flashes by is the main circuit for controlling the servo motor. The rest of the concepts build from this circuit, using light, sound, flex, and other sensors as inputs. For instance, the setup above is using a light sensor. When the ball blocks the light the servo moves that vertical rod hitting it out of the way. When it swings back the process repeats. It’s striking how lifelike the reactions are, reminding us of insect movements. But this is really just the tip of the iceberg as he’s got a lot of future video ideas that we can’t wait to see.


[Thanks Jeri]

20 thoughts on “Analog Robotic Concepts

  1. I just watched his video, This man certainly knows what he’s talking about. However I will say from the aged look of the hands in the video, yet the voice from the narrative, I question whether this is just some videos some punk put together of someone else’s work?

    Either way, very informative and this shows us that digital logic is not always desired in electronics, especially when we’re looking at robotics, sometimes chaotic behavior is sought after.

    1. …That really is Tom talking, the guy that made the video and the circuits. I’ve been aware of his vids for a couple years now. You should go to his Youtube site and watch everything….Learn what you can.

  2. nice collection of vids! i knew about these timers but didn’t really think of all the things they could do with a servo. 555s only cost about 25p each (uk). i can see myself getting a bag or two of them. HAD, please post subsequent vids in this series!

  3. The stuff on inventables seems way too expensive. ~$20 for one squishy gel magnet? I want to test out an idea I had for robotic muscles.

    I guess I’ll just ask here. Can anyone here tell me whether or not, if the magnet were stretched out, electromagnets on each end would make it contract?

  4. Hey Klaymen, Zach Kaplan here from Inventables. Can you tell me a bit more about the robotic muscle idea you’re working on? I’ve tested the magnets with a strong stationary magnet and they do deform a bit. If you are trying to get them to deform a few millimeters it will work if you are thinking a 3 centimeters it will not work. I assume if you used an electromagnet you could create the same effect. Over time the gel magnets will degrade a bit. It’s still an experimental material and they are working on different sealing techniques that will slow down or prevent this from happening.

  5. Zach. Thank you for responding. What I am talking about would essentially be two electromagnets attached to the ends of the gel magnet (with glue or something). If you were to then stretch out the gel magnets (by pulling apart on the electromagnets attached to either end), and then turned on the electromagnets, would it cause the gel magnet to contract?

    That probably didn’t explain it very well, so I will try another way. Imagine you have an electromagnet facing down (like the kind that pick up cars in a junkyard) and it is turned off. Now glue one end of the gel magnet to the electromagnet. On the other end of the gel magnet (the side facing down), glue a weight that is heavy enough to stretch out the gel magnet (ideally the weight would have an electromagnet in it as well). If you were to then turn on the electromagnet, would it lift the weight? If so, how much could it potentially lift?

    Also, if this has not been thought of before, do you know of any way to create an open patent (a la Creative Commons, or GPL) that would allow anyone to use it?

    Thanks in advance.

  6. Klaymen-

    That’s an interesting idea. I don’t know how well it would work in practice with the gel magnets we sell because the discs are only 3/8″ thick and while the magnets are squishy they only stretch about 50% more than their original size so the travel wouldn’t be that much.

    If you got another form factor and potentially a different base material like the Super Elastic Plastic – it may work better. With the magnets we sell if it did work when you turned the electromagnet on I believe it would probably only contract a few millimeters. Also you’d have to test it but I believe cycling it over and over would cause a change in the distance of the contraction due to slow displacement of the iron particles in the gel.

    I don’t know the details of Open Source Patents but that would be interesting to find out. Maybe someone like Joi Ito could point us to the right answer.

    We are going to get a really big shipment of magnets in during the month of April. If you email your address to I will have our shipping team send you a free one to run your experiment after we get our new shipment in.


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