Researchers Make Robot Cockroach
Researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology have created a six-legged robot that walks with diverse gaits and postures. For example, the hexapod bot can walk with three legs straight out from its sides, like an ant, or with the legs spread more evenly around the body, like a cockroach.
The work is part of an effort to design robots to move more naturally as they navigate environments with uneven surfaces. The researchers developed a new biologically-inspired controller that uses a network of non-linear oscillators which enables a diverse number of postures and gaits using only a few high-level variables. The controller has two levels, a pattern-generator circuit that controls the gait, and six local pattern generators that control the trajectories of the individual legs — each performs tasks based off of years of previous research.
In the past, it has been near impossible to mimic an animal's brain, they're too complex to condense into a pattern generator, which serves as the robot's artificial brain. This simplified brain not only worked, but the robot used gaits that weren't designed into it. It's capable of adapting to the situation.
According to the researchers, they have yet to crack how these complex movements are performed by such simple living creatures, but the study could eventually lead to new ways to control multi-legged robots and even a future that uses brain-computer interfaces.
Bug Burgers & Dogless Hotdogs
SPACE10 is IKEA's innovation lab. This week the lab re-imagined five classic entrees as the fast food of the future. While you won't find it in your local store's anytime soon, we must consider if/when restaurants will add meal-worm burgers and micro-algae buns to the menu.
Among the new grub is the Dogless Hotdog, which consists of dried and glazed carrots, beet and berry ketchup, mustard and turmeric cream, roasted onions, cucumber salad and an herb salad mix. Really, it sounds like a decent recipe for a wrap, and even has more protein, but then you realize that they are serving it on a bun made from micro-algae. Sure, it has 50 times more iron than spinach, but also the visual appeal of a moldy vegetable.
The Bug Burger is a new take on a slider patty made up of beetroot, parsnip, potatoes and meal-worms; and the Neatball is a new take on IKEA's classic meatballs with two recipes: one made with meal-worms (they must have a large supply of beetle larvae), and the other is made of carrots, parsnips and beets. Really, they just divvied up the Bug Burger's ingredients.
They also created a LOKAL Salad, which is both lo-cal, and locally grown. Consisting of ingredients from the hydroponic garden in the test lab's basement, the salads are a mix of microgreens, herbs, and sprouts.
The dessert to finish the meal is a microgreen ice cream made using hydroponic herbs and greens. Flavors include fennel, coriander, basil, and mint combined with a base made from apple and lemon juice.
3D Printing Houses for $4,000
Non-profit New Story and construction company Icon have created the first permitted 3D-printed home in the United States. Located in Austin, TX, the home is a proof of concept that can be 3D-printed in 12-24 hours.
According to ICON, the home was built using its Vulcan mobile printer prototype for $10,000. The production version of the printer will be able to print a single story, 600-800 square foot home for less than $4,000. The printer was designed to work with little to no waste, as well as in harsh environments, such as places with limited water, power and labor infrastructure.
The low cost and sturdy homes could be a viable answer for impoverished people around the globe. It certainly looks sturdier than my old mobile home, a lot less flammable as well. Mobile homes typically cost around $20,000, and some people are downsizing into tiny homes that can run up to $40,000 for a 400 square-foot home.
According to New Story, more than one billion people in the world don't have safe shelter. With this new process, construction time and cost could be dramatically reduced, hopefully improving living situations for people around the world.
The partnership has plans to print an entire community of homes in El Salvador by 2019, but they are still in need of additional funding. The non-profit is looking for $600k by April 13th to fund the next phase of R&D, and another $400k for the first community of 100 printed homes — that's 100 homes for what some people spend on a single house.
The project debuted at SXSW 2018, which could be why they put the book Elon Musk: This Book is About Rockets on top of the stack on the desk. The children's book looks to inspire the next generation of tinkerers and big thinkers, and it just so happens to center around the tech industry's biggest draw. Who knows? Maybe Musk is interested in yet another business venture.
This is Engineering By Design.