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Welcome to Project FRAME: Future Robotics Advancement in Modular Elements

Mission Statement:

This is a collaborative discussion website meant to take the world's technological development to the next level. It was started by Moshi Badalov, Freshman student at the University of Arizona. The scope of this project is physically impossible to carry out by a single engineer with a vision, so this website was created to make the endeavor reasonable.

The focus of this project is to discuss and conclude practical methods that will globally standardize an (affordable) advanced robotics parts system for land based robots and vehicles. Advanced land robots especially feature walking machines, which will inevitably become of wide use in the world's future, across very many industries. The purpose of this discussion is to determine how to, just like the automobile industry, create a globally standardized etiquette for building advanced land-based robots and vehicles who's parts are modular. This means that any assembly (such as the legs, if it walks) can easily be switched out with elements from an entirely different company. For example, if you want to upgrade your American car, you can do it with car parts from Japan, or any country that has the same car model on the streets. Just imagine this idea with advanced robotics, where certain robot frames are as standard as certain car frames.

If you wish to author posts on this blog, kindly send an email to moshibadalov@ymail.com. You are requested, however, to please watch this public presentation that led to the creation of Project FRAME. It explains the significance of this project clearly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO79r39_11Q.

Also, take a skim (or a full read, if you please) of the online research paper that corresponds to the presentation: http://www.scribd.com/doc/146767581/Analysis-and-Development-of-Advanced-Robot-Designs.

The content in the above links are of vital importance to Project FRAME.

Anyone is free to share ideas, photos, and videos to communicate their opinions on how to develop this into reality. If this discussion gets enough participants, it might shift into an official website. It's time to engineer the next generation of robotics.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Necessity for Multiple Categories of Modular Frame Types, As Well As Component Types

I'll start off pointing out that we have some really great ideas being shared here. I'll begin with the real life example brought up by DroidFreak: Phonebloks. I guess I missed the bus on that one, and hadn't heard of it until now (but then again, the concept was developed only two months ago). The idea behind Phonebloks will undoubtedly make its way into reality, because of its necessity. Phonebloks is an excellent example of an industry addressing the problem of not having modular frames. If you haven't watched the short video explaining Phonebloks, you must, because it's just that awesome:


How...cool...is that? What I find very interesting about all this is that the cell phone industry never globally standardized any frame type before, and the consequences of that have become so noticeable to the point where a group of people just like the members of Project FRAME had to organize a webpage to share ideas for a modular phone system. If I had heard of Phonebloks sooner, I would have mentioned it in my first post welcoming members to this project.

The concept I want to flesh out with this is the idea of an industry going from non-modular to modular. Let's be real; advanced robotics hasn't become much of an industry yet, but when it will, imagine how difficult it will be to make it modular if it does not start out as modular from birth. This is exactly why Project FRAME needs all the participation it can get, because advanced robotics is far more complicated than cell phones. Hell, it will use cell phone technology within it. If the future will bring us walking robotic vehicles that are each built for a unique frame, then the entire robot may be trashed if a single element stops working, just as the Phonebloks video above mentions. Or, if all you wanted was for the robot to move faster, why trash the entire robot when you can get hydraulics with higher performance?

Let's take the analogy of Phonebloks with Project FRAME a bit further. The video above clearly depicted the different component types that will be available for Phonebloks, such as the ones labelled below:
They also have a standard design for connection ports:


What makes it easy to accomplish, however, is that there is only one frame type. There is absolutely no need to have a different variation of the board that accepts a different type of blocks, because it's always going to be a phone. Advanced robots by no means will consist of only one frame type, so what needs to be done is generate a list of frame types that we can expect the industry to divide into.

An idea for an interesting frame type has been described in Bruce Jarel Chambers' first post, which involves having only three component types: The chassis mounted joint, the intermediate segment, and a terminus. The change I would make to this system is to have the chassis already outfitted with joints that connect to whatever element you want. I believe it would over-complicate element designs if the elements themselves had the mounting joint. From all my experience with robot designs, I have learned that the moving components should weight the least, to maximize motion flow. And, if these components are limbs, then all the major joints (shoulder and hip mountings) should be intrinsically based in the chassis. Let's take another look at Ambush from Real Steel:


Notice how the shoulder joints are heavily integrated into the chassis frame. The arms themselves seem to be attached without heavy amounts of joint connections, with nothing but a rotating cylinder connecting each arm to the shoulder joint. If the shoulder joint were actually to be a part of the arm, it would be much more difficult to attach it to the chassis.

Keeping it to Real Steel robots, the film presents us with another method of shoulder joint connection, used in the robot Noisy Boy:


After his arm gets broken off, we see that it was attached with a ball joint connection, but mechanical parts surrounding the ball joint are what actually powered the arm movements, just like how the human skeletal system is engulfed by the muscular system. It is interesting to note that the ball joint itself is mounted on a large lever, allowing the robot to perform motions such as shrugging (to defend it's head, as it is a boxing robot). Ambush seemingly can do all the same, but instead of the tension chords that Noisy Boy uses, Ambush just has a bunch of hydraulic cylinders. [Take a look at http://io9.com/5847701/designing-a-world-of-robot-fighters-the-concept-art-of-real-steel for a designer commentary on the Real Steel robots.]

So to conclude, one type of modular frame for advanced robots, as first suggested by Bruce Jarel Chambers and then modified here, could be a chassis featuring standard joint connections wherever necessary, and detachable limbs with detachable terminus components. I think it's pretty simple, and it could work nicely for smaller-scale up to human-sized robots, especially if they are humanoid. Larger machines would need a larger array of component types, a list that we still have to think up. I think a preliminary step for coming up with a very agreeable list is to first identify exactly what advanced robots will most likely appear in future industry. By this I mean what sort of basic structure, what sort of attached equipment, and what industry(s) they will serve. And of course, how all their modular parts connect together.

4 comments:

  1. You bring up some interesting points with the integration of joints into the chassis or the connection point between limb and chassis, but I don't think that having joints directly at the attachment points would work very well in a modular system because connective joints of different types would not be compatible. Note that Ambush and Noisy Boy's arm joints couldn't be modularity interchanged because they use completely different attachments at the joints. I think that the best way to include the option of joints like that in a modular system would be to create frames that don't actually include the shoulder joints, but include attachments on the inside of where the shoulder joints go. That way an Ambush shoulder joint or a Noisy Boy shoulder joint could be attached to the same frame. And I don't think that frames should actually be part of the Project FRAME standard (ironically) because frames could be custom designed by part-production companies. Our goal should be designing the attachment points themselves and raising awareness in an attempt to convince companies to use our standard (or develop one of their own).

    Although your examples do bring up the usefulness of mechanical power like tension cords and hydraulic lines. In particular hydraulics would be very useful to include in our standard, as the modern analog of heavy-duty robots (heavy-duty construction machinery) makes heavy use of hydraulics. It would be interesting to try to standardize hydraulics and see if it's actually more effective than electric motors in robotics. Although frankly my feeling is that mechanical power of all sorts is on the way out and electricity is the way to go in most situations.

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    1. I'll work my way up your response, answering your last points first and your first points last.

      What exactly do you mean by mechanical power being replaced simply by electricity? Just some specification or an example would be good. I also do believe that hydraulics would be excellent to include for a standard form of joint power. Construction vehicles are definitely demonstrating this, however their cylinders favor power over speed. There must be a way to increase overall performance. As for convincing companies to standardize their future robot connector modules, setting this as an actual goal will be the last step of Project FRAME, so you've really started thinking far ahead (and I like that). For now all we should do is discuss how to even start, in terms of methodology to gather agreement between the companies and what exactly the connectors should look like.

      Regarding designing actual robot frames for this project; it is true that we're only setting out to design standard connection ports, but we should still consider every type of frame that will use them. Otherwise we might be designing joints for the wrong type of robot. So basically we should at least come up with a list of frame TYPES without actually designing frames (in detail, but perhaps in general form).

      Now to your first point - whether or not entire joint modules should be detachable. I am certain that having completely detachable joints will heavily lower the integrity of the entire robot frame. Also, it puts a completely additional construction step to the assembly process. Or, if you wanted the entire limb to have the integrated mounting joint, that too wouldn't be the best option, because undoubtedly there will be more limbs manufactured than chassis. This would mean an unnecessary amount of manufactured mechanical parts, because each arm for example would be outfitted with its own joint mount (and now I'm thinking about legs and it seems like it would be good to have entire sets of legs, 2 or 4 or 6 (etc) manufactured already connected to a platform that has a vacancy for a chassis above it...we'll make posts about legs later). But if you still insist that intermediate joint modules are the way to go, make a post showing some examples of how well it would work. I'm planning to make a post on how chassis with integrated joint modules would be better. I don't think that simply noticing the ball joint skeletal system of Noisy Boy and the hydraulic joint system in Ambush means we should develop custom joint types, especially for robots of the same size. We're here to standardize things, after all. Maybe the different joint types can be reserved for different sizes, but the same type for the same size (another subject to post about in the future: size).

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    2. What about any separation points happening below the joint? For example: If you wanted to replace an arm, removal at the socket means having a weaker socket (as previously stated); so what if the separation point would happen (in the case of a human like arm) several inches below the shoulder, and below the bicep/tricep musculature. the shoulder "musculature" would remain intact and connected to both the shoulder and arm, thus maintaining strength of the shoulder and the arm "musculature" would surround and reinforce the separation point.

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    3. Ah, this is another interesting approach. It seems to be inspired by the way prosthetic arms are attached to the human body. If we were to use this in robotics, then what I think would be good is to have those extra few inches - that hang from the shoulder - to be a skeletal structure with plenty of sockets to lock an attachment that slides onto it. I don't think it should actually be an externally-visible part of the arm, but rather a very robust rail that the arm slides onto. What do you think? You should make a post about this approach.

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