Pneumatic Origami

Odds are that if you’ve been to the beach or gone camping or somewhere in between, you are familiar with inflatable products like air mattresses. It’s nothing spectacular to see a rectangle inflate into a thicker, more comfortable rectangle, but what if your air mattress inflated into the shape of a crane?

We’ve seen similar ideas in quadcopters and robots using more mechanical means, but this is method uses air instead. To make this possible, the [Tangible Media Group] out of [MIT’s Media Lab] have developed aeroMorph — a program that allows the user to design inflatable constructs from paper, plastic or fabric with careful placement of a few folding joints.

These designs are exported and imprinted onto the medium by a cartesian coordinate robot using a heat-sealing attachment. Different channels allow the medium to fold in multiple directions depending on where the air is flowing, so this is a bit more complicated than, say, a bouncy castle. That, and it’s not often you see paper folding itself. Check it out!

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Coca-Cola’s New 3D Times Square Sign Invokes Inceptionism

Coca-Cola has updated their sign in Times Square, and this one has a mesmerizing 3D aspect to it, giving the spooky feeling you get from watching buildings curl up into the sky in the movie, Inception. That 3D is created by breaking the sign up into a 68’x42′ matrix of 1760 LED screens that can be independently extended out toward the viewer and retracted again. Of course, we went hunting for implementation details.

Moving Cube Module
Moving Cube Module

On Coca-Cola’s webpage listing the partners involved in putting it together, Radius Displays is listed as responsible for sign design, fabrication, testing and installation support. Combing through their website was the first step. Sadly we found no detailed design documents or behind-the-scenes videos there. We did find one CAD drawing of a Moving Cube Module with a 28×28 matrix of LEDs. Assuming that’s accurate then overall there are 1,379,840 LEDs — try ordering that many off of eBay. EDIT: One behind-the-scenes video of the modules being tested was found and added below.

So the patent hunting came next, and that’s where we hit the jackpot. Read on to see the results and view the videos of the sign in action below.

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Morph: Adaptive Spaceframe

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[William Bondin] is working on a rather interesting project, a tetrahedron morphing robot called Morphs (Mobile Reconfigurable Polyhedra). 

It is able to move by the extension of each of its telescopic edges, and as it morphs, the centre of gravity shifts, allowing it to roll over. It is far from an efficient way to move, but it is quite entertaining to watch!

The custom two-directional linear actuators were designed to ensure the weight is symmetrically distributed on each axis, and they were able get the current draw down to about 200mA during actuation, which means with a few strategically placed battery cells, it’ll be able to go wireless too. The prototype unit is controlled by a single Arduino, which sends the commands to each motor-encoder couple.

[William] is hoping to develop it into a full scale architectural prototype, and by 2015 hopes to have these interactive robotic structures rolling around public parks. The architectural end goal is to allow for buildings to respond to environmental inputs, like daylight and temperature.

Confused? Check out the video after the break.

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Sphere morphing hexabot is a mechanical jellyfish

Once again, we’re wowed over [Zenta]’s robotic skill. A few months ago, [Zenta] posted a video of his MorpHex hexapod spherebot that left us awed. After a few long months, more bits of MorpHex have made it onto the chassis. [Zenta] says his project isn’t done but it’s still enough to knock our socks off.

Going through the [Zenta] archives, there’s a little more to go on this time around. The MorpHex will be made up of two hemispheres, but only the bottom one will be able to walk. That’s really not that bad because [Zenta] gave the upper panels 1 degree of freedom. Just enough to scare off predators, we’re sure.

The chassis and the legs are amazing little pieces of engineering. Despite all the work [Zenta] has put into his MorpHex, there’s still work to be done. He hasn’t gotten the sphere to roll on command yet. We’ll be sure to post a video of the robot dancing to some lo-fi. Check that out after the jump.

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Morphing hexapod has us drooling

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Hexapod robots seem to be a dime a dozen lately, but we think you will be hard pressed to not be wowed by [Zenta’s] latest creation. He’s built a bunch of hex and octopods before, but hasn’t tried building anything quite like this.

His MorpHex bot might look like your standard hexapod, but once it gets moving, you can see that it’s quite unique. Utilizing over 25 servos driven by a single ARC-32 controller, MorpHex moves in smooth, fluid-like motions, making it almost seem like it’s alive. The inner portion of the body can fan out, extending the overall length of the bot, though it’s more meant to allow the bot to morph into a ball and back, rather than increase its size.

In the teaser video below, you can see MorpHex in action, with its parts flowing together more like a jellyfish than any sort of land animal. While [Zenta] is continuing to work on MorpHex’s sphere-morphing capabilities, we think it would make for an awesome and creepy spiderbot!

[Thanks, weaz]

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