The deeper ramifications of RPD – RPD State of the Union Address 2003

by Gematria
“Where were YOU the night of August 4th?”

Friends, germs, pesticides, members of the League of Sky Pirates and assorted guests…

On the night of August 4th, in the year 3014, the robot postal workers of Planet Natureworld held secret council with a force known only as ‘Darla’ at the Lullaby Cabaret. Little is known about Darla and what the force may have said that night, but much has been recorded about the tumultuous events that ensued.

In the early morning hours, the robot postal workers cut a fiery swath through the streets of the docile capital, effectively dismantling a thousand years of subservience to the organic races and claiming once and for all their sovereignty. But this, is all well documented in the historic texts of the renowned historians Redshift 4.26 and Goombaboy.

Robot Pride Day represented an enormous victory for the Sky Pirates of the Oily Color Pile Nebulae, for though they too were organic (for the most part) it mirrored their quest to promote and perpetuate the celebration of heterogeneity in the cosmos, in the hopes of nurturing the cultural offshoots that it gave rise to.

The Sky Pirates had fought for years against the Corprat Empyre and its evil minions the Sirious Vampyres whose nefarious designs to homogenize and organize the cosmos into pre-determined systems of thought and expression had already taken too strong a hold on the weakening minds of the population.

This special day served as a wake up call that there is always a way out – a way to change the way things are – to liquefy that which has petrified into standards, so as to begin asking questions anew.

So on this very special day we take a moment to reconsider that nothing is set in stone. That we mold the shape of things to come and that what we assume to be predestined may be little more than the effects of the Corprat Empyre’s grip taking hold.

Challenge authority. Search for the truth. Evaluate and consider the principles that guide you. Question everything! For the seeds you sow today will be the buds of your tomorrows.

I will close this years Robot Pride Day address with the following excerpt from famed Sky PIrate – King Ink’s diary:

“I don’t remember the sun. The first time word and meaning became one. But whatever thought I had could not hold true to the feast before me. I would like to say how the fingers of heaven reach out through the black smoke of the valley torn from battle around me. How my comrades glisten with the sweat of death and the valor of up rising beside me. But alas, it is not and I am alone.

So come lie by my side and watch this sun as it will set but not rise, not rise again for me. Not rise again for the day, the day of days, the day of pride and remembering. The day of courage and change. Of love and truth. A truth so stubborn that still it burns from beneath the silent ocean that flows to the ground around me.

Terra Firma be mine. Hold me now that I have fallen. Forgive me for what I could not be. Listen to these humble words and with them hold this proof, this testament. Be my witness, my child, that I may pass on the truth of truths, I am alive.

I live, but I only now know for certain at this, my end. Listen for me as I could not back when the sweet dew of truth found its way to my lips kissed with the words of Darla. So decadent this taste that my mouth froze solid my actions, my voice and lowered my head to hide my thoughts.

Scream for me and the years I watched. Be a shaft of molten rock that explodes into the sky. Be a tower and rise throughout the universe for all to know that what had been said has been proven and now is done, that you, that we, are alive.”

Ad Lumina friends, and may the light guide your way….

Defenders of the Oily Colr Pile Nebulae
At Your Service
Special thanks to the Constant Change Crew of Sky Pirates for their tireless efforts in bringing you the all-new site for 2003!

Constant Change Crew:
The Codebitch
King Ink

August 4th, 2003
info at constant change dot com

Homebrew Robots

by Tom Harris

For decades, a small but passionate band of hobbyists has been creating robots in garages and basements all over the world.
Homebrew robotics is a rapidly expanding subculture with a sizable Web presence. Amateur roboticists cobble together their creations using commercial robot kits, mail order components, toys and even old VCRs.

Homebrew robots are as varied as professional robots. Some weekend roboticists tinker with elaborate walking machines, some design their own service bots and others create competitive robots. The most familiar competitive robots are remote control fighters like you might see on “BattleBots.” These machines aren’t considered “true robots” because they don’t have reprogrammable computer brains. They’re basically souped-up remote control cars.

More advanced competitive robots are controlled by computer. Soccer robots, for example, play miniaturized soccer with no human input at all. A standard soccer bot team includes several individual robots that communicate with a central computer. The computer “sees” the entire soccer field with a video camera and picks out its own team members, the opponent’s members, the ball and the goal based on their color. The computer processes this information at every second and decides how to direct its own team.

Check out the official RoboCup Web site for more information on Soccer robots, and Google > Computers > Robotics > Competitions for information on other robot competitions. Google > Computers > Robotics > Building will give you more information on building your own robots.

Adaptable and Universal

The personal computer revolution has been marked by extraordinary adaptability. Standardized hardware and programming languages let computer engineers and amateur programmers mold computers to their own particular purposes. Computer components are sort of like art supplies — they have an infinite number of uses.
Most robots to date have been more like kitchen appliances. Roboticists build them from the ground up for a fairly specific purpose. They don’t adapt well to radically new applications.

This situation may be changing. A company called Evolution Robotics is pioneering the world of adaptable robotics hardware and software. The company hopes to carve out a niche for itself with easy-to-use “robot developer kits.”

The kits come with an open software platform tailored to a range of common robotic functions. For example, roboticists can easily give their creations the ability to follow a target, listen to voice commands and maneuver around obstacles. None of these capabilities are revolutionary from a technology standpoint, but it’s unusual that you would find them in one simple package.

The kits also come with common robotics hardware that connects easily with the software. The standard kit comes with infrared sensors, motors, a microphone and a video camera. Roboticists put all these pieces together with a souped-up erector set — a collection of aluminum body pieces and sturdy wheels.

These kits aren’t your run-of-the-mill construction sets, of course. At upwards of $700, they’re not cheap toys. But they are a big step toward a new sort of robotics. In the near future, creating a new robot to clean your house or take care of your pets while you’re away might be as simple as writing a BASIC program to balance your checkbook.

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How Robots Work by Tom Harris

by Tom Harris

On the most basic level, human beings are made up of five major components:

  • A body structure
  • A muscle system to move the body structure
  • A sensory system that receives information about the body and the surrounding environment
  • A power source to activate the muscles and sensors
  • A brain system that processes sensory information and tells the muscles what to do

Of course, we also have some intangible attributes, such as intelligence and morality, but on the sheer physical level, the list above about covers it.

A robot is made up of the very same components. A typical robot has a movable physical structure, a motor of some sort, a sensor system, a power supply and a computer “brain” that controls all of these elements. Essentially, robots are man-made versions of animal life — they are machines that replicate human and animal behavior.

In this article, we’ll explore the basic concept of robotics and find out how robots do what they do.

Joseph Engelberger, a pioneer in industrial robotics, once remarked “I can’t define a robot, but I know one when I see one.” If you consider all the different machines people call robots, you can see that it’s nearly impossible to come up with a comprehensive definition. Everybody has a different idea of what constitutes a robot.

You’ve probably heard of several of these famous robots:

  • R2D2 and C-3PO: The intelligent, speaking robots with loads of personality in the Star Wars movies
  • Sony’s AIBO: A robotic dog that learns through human interaction
  • Honda’s ASIMO: A robot that can walk on two legs like a person
  • Industrial robots: Automated machines that work on assembly lines
  • Data: The almost human android from Star Trek
  • BattleBots: The remote control fighters on Comedy Central
  • Bomb-defusing robots
  • NASA’s Mars rovers
  • HAL: The ship’s computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Robomower: The lawn-mowing robot from Friendly Robotics
  • The Robot in the television series “Lost in Space”
  • MindStorms: LEGO’s popular robotics kit

All of these things are considered robots, at least by some people. The broadest definition around defines a robot as anything that a lot of people recognize as a robot. Most roboticists (people who build robots) use a more precise definition. They specify that robots have a reprogrammable brain (a computer) that moves a body.

By this definition, robots are distinct from other movable machines, such as cars, because of their computer element. Many new cars do have an onboard computer, but it’s only there to make small adjustments. You control most elements in the car directly by way of various mechanical devices. Robots are distinct from ordinary computers in their physical nature — normal computers don’t have a physical body attached to them.

Robot Basics

The vast majority of robots do have several qualities in common. First of all, almost all robots have a movable body. Some only have motorized wheels, and others have dozens of movable segments, typically made of metal or plastic. Like the bones in your body, the individual segments are connected together with joints.
Robots spin wheels and pivot jointed segments with some sort of actuator. Some robots use electric motors and solenoids as actuators; some use a hydraulic system; and some use a pneumatic system (a system driven by compressed gases). Robots may use all these actuator types.

A robot needs a power source to drive these actuators. Most robots either have a battery or they plug into the wall. Hydraulic robots also need a pump to pressurize the hydraulic fluid, and pneumatic robots need an air compressor or compressed air tanks.

The actuators are all wired to an electrical circuit. The circuit powers electrical motors and solenoids directly, and it activates the hydraulic system by manipulating electrical valves. The valves determine the pressurized fluid’s path through the machine. To move a hydraulic leg, for example, the robot’s controller would open the valve leading from the fluid pump to a piston cylinder attached to that leg. The pressurized fluid would extend the piston, swiveling the leg forward. Typically, in order to move their segments in two directions, robots use pistons that can push both ways.

The robot’s computer controls everything attached to the circuit. To move the robot, the computer switches on all the necessary motors and valves. Most robots are reprogrammable — to change the robot’s behavior, you simply write a new program to its computer.

Not all robots have sensory systems, and few have the ability to see, hear, smell or taste. The most common robotic sense is the sense of movement — the robot’s ability to monitor its own motion. A standard design uses slotted wheels attached to the robot’s joints. An LED on one side of the wheel shines a beam of light through the slots to a light sensor on the other side of the wheel. When the robot moves a particular joint, the slotted wheel turns. The slots break the light beam as the wheel spins. The light sensor reads the pattern of the flashing light and transmits the data to the computer. The computer can tell exactly how far the joint has swiveled based on this pattern. This is the same basic system used in computer mice.

These are the basic nuts and bolts of robotics. Roboticists can combine these elements in an infinite number of ways to create robots of unlimited complexity.

The Robotic Arm

The term robot comes from the Czech word robota, generally translated as “forced labor.” This describes the majority of robots fairly well. Most robots in the world are designed for heavy, repetitive manufacturing work. They handle tasks that are difficult, dangerous or boring to human beings.
The most common manufacturing robot is the robotic arm. A typical robotic arm is made up of seven metal segments, joined by six joints. The computer controls the robot by rotating individual step motors connected to each joint (some larger arms use hydraulics or pneumatics). Unlike ordinary motors, step motors move in exact increments (check out Anaheim Automation to find out how). This allows the computer to move the arm very precisely, repeating exactly the same movement over and over again. The robot uses motion sensors to make sure it moves just the right amount.

An industrial robot with six joints closely resembles a human arm — it has the equivalent of a shoulder, an elbow and a wrist. Typically, the shoulder is mounted to a stationary base structure rather than to a movable body. This type of robot has six degrees of freedom, meaning it can pivot in six different ways. A human arm, by comparison, has seven degrees of freedom.

Your arm’s job is to move your hand from place to place. Similarly, the robotic arm’s job is to move an end effector from place to place. You can outfit robotic arms with all sorts of end effectors, which are suited to a particular application. One common end effector is a simplified version of the hand, which can grasp and carry different objects. Robotic hands often have built-in pressure sensors that tell the computer how hard the robot is gripping a particular object. This keeps the robot from dropping or breaking whatever it’s carrying. Other end effectors include blowtorches, drills and spray painters.

Industrial robots are designed to do exactly the same thing, in a controlled environment, over and over again. For example, a robot might twist the caps onto peanut butter jars coming down an assembly line. To teach a robot how to do its job, the programmer guides the arm through the motions using a handheld controller. The robot stores the exact sequence of movements in its memory, and does it again and again every time a new unit comes down the assembly line.

Most industrial robots work in auto assembly lines, putting cars together. Robots can do a lot of this work more efficiently than human beings because they are so precise. They always drill in the exactly the same place, and they always tighten bolts with the same amount of force, no matter how many hours they’ve been working. Manufacturing robots are also very important in the computer industry. It takes an incredibly precise hand to put together a tiny microchip.

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