Yearly Archives: 2003

Stone Age

An idea for a game: You are transported back in time to 30,000 years ago, somewhere on Earth, maybe in the ice-age areas in the north, or the plains of Africa.

The animals are of that era (wooly rhinoceroses, giant squirrels) and the native peoples don’t have written language.

You however, have all the knowledge of a 21st-century person, and your quest is to introduce technologies of metallurgy and engineering to the societies you find.

It would be sort of like Age of Empires or SimCity except the goals would be much more practical, such as how to actually hunt down a mastodon while keeping safe from sabre-tooths and other predators – tasks usually hinted at but not developed in other games.

The first task would … Read the rest

Phonetic Alphabet

Quite often, I have to speak or understand information given over the phone that contains numbers and digits, such as IP addresses or convoluted Web site URLs.

Because of the limited bias of phone lines, the higher frequencies of the human voice are cut out and letters such as ‘P’ and ‘T’ or ‘F’ and ‘S’ or ‘D’ and ‘B’ or ‘N’ and ‘M’ sound alike.

So this list of phonetic dictionaries comes in handy.

In British English my name is spelled Mike Alpha Tango Tango, but in Esperanto it’s spelled Maŝino Asfalto Triumfo Triumfo

(Note the unicode for the ‘ŝ’ [ŝ] since ‘s’ doesn’t have a circumflex over it in the standard 7- or 8-bit encoded character set.)… Read the rest

Blogma Week 10

Quest for Curiosity: Qrio


Computical Physicing

Week 16

Cooking can be fun, but I’m wary whenever I see recipes that include steps such as “pat dry” or “mince finely” or “let sit for 45 minutes“.

I don’t mind stirring until well-mixed or chop into large chunks – coarse violence is fine, I just don’t like steps that require precision.

My favorite recipes include the word ‘dump’, as in, “Open can. Dump contents into bowl.”

Or better yet, “Dump contents into mouth.”

‘Pouring’ suggests some amount of care, while ‘dump’ means it doesn’t matter if some falls on the floor, if you leave some in the can to eat later with a spatula.

The latest humanoid robot (from Japan, of course) is named Qrio … Read the rest

Blogma Week F

Robot's Voice Helps It Find Its Way


Computical Physicing

Week 15

From The Economist, Dec 4th 2003

Computers that read your mind: Playing Pac-Man on thought-controlled computers

They stole my idea.

It is said that mycologists have the highest incidence of poisoning by mushroom.
Their confidence leads to carelessness.
That’s been the explanation for my recent failed efforts – sometimes when I’m sure I can do something, I don’t try.
Other times, I don’t know what I’m doing, but at least I know that I don’t know, and then I try and succeed.

100 years ago the Wright brothers built and flew the first airplane.
Last week I failed to make a little electric car.
Talk about weight-to-power ratios, they had to have enough power to actually lift the whole thing … Read the rest

Robots of Venery

Terms of Venery (Collective Nouns):

– A group of unicorns is called a blessing. (how often does that happen?)
– Twelve or more cows (kine) are known as a flink.
– A group of frogs is called an army.
– A group of rhinos is called a crash.
– A group of kangaroos is called a mob.
– A group of whales is called a pod.
– A group of ravens (or crows) is called a murder.
– A group of larks is called an exaltation.
– A group of owls is called a parliament.

So, once we begin hunting robots for sport, what shall we call a grouping of them?
– A ‘can of robots’?
– A ‘bismuth of robots’?
– A ‘bottle of … Read the rest

Blogma Week E

Kenji Yanobe's Radiation Car Cobolt


Intro to Physical Computing
Fall, 2003
Jeff Feddersen

Week 14 – The Last Journal?!?

Ah. Snow.

Taxis' tires push

Through the slush of Houston Street:

Sounds like the Ocean

My final project idea is okay, but it needs a little something. Technically, it won’t be anything that hasn’t been done before (cancelling the negatives, it WILL be something that HAS been done).
So a business won’t be interested, but a museum might, but only if the thing has some kind of aesthetic value or meaning of some kind.

If I make the cables that connect the segments really long, that could be interesting.

If I make the cables switchable from left to right, then by changing them I could make the segments move in the … Read the rest

Blogma Week D

Kenji Yanobe's Sweet Harmonizer 2


Intro to Physical Computing
Fall, 2003
Jeff Feddersen

Week 13

interactive neurotic King's head assembly
The picture on the left is a ‘Kismet‘-style greeterBot being used at King’s College in London.
The article in Nature

I still want to make my Kisov robot, which would be capable of walking unaided to Cambridge and punching Kismet in the face.

I bought one of those multi-color IR sensors that is supposed to be able to not only detect light, but detect specific wavelengths.
Danged if I can figure out how it works. It has four glass plates on the front and two sets of three wires in the back.
I can’t find any specs anywhere.
Gov. Color Detector
The wires are sort of like those of a stepper motor, where each set of … Read the rest

Blogma Week C

Spring Turkey


Intro to Physical Computing
Fall, 2003
Jeff Feddersen

Week 12

Obligatory Fat Albert reference:

Randall: Mushmouth, you’re like p-comp on Thanksgiving.

Mushmouth: Whabat dobo youbou meabean?

Randall: No class

If I do the centipede robot, I could either make the segment wheels always turn together, relying on the head to pull them in the right direction, the way an 18-wheeler relies on the cab to turn.
Or, I could have the segment wheels turn separately, based on a signal that’s passed down from the head (right wheel to turn left, and vice versa).
But that would mean each segment turning on its own, and the whole thing would move diagonally.
Maybe I could just reduce the power sent to the one wheel rather than cut … Read the rest

Blogma Week B


Intro to Physical Computing
Fall, 2003
Jeff Feddersen

Week 11

MPJA has little 5V motors for 39¢ a piece for orders of 5 or more.

Some old friends visited over the weekend. Anna, the girl, was fascinated with all my electronics junk.
I taught her how to solder and she wired up some potentiometers and speakers for me.
She was into making LEDs turn on, and before long she had set up a circuit where she could vary the brightness of the LEDs with a variable resistor.
She’s only 9 but made as much progress in a few hours as I had made in my first week in this class.

She asked me whether I enjoyed playing sports. I said, ‘Not really.’

Then she said, … Read the rest

My Robot Can Kick Your Robot’s ASCII

Nitinol – Muscle Wire: The Mauling

(sort of like muscle cars, except long and very skinny)

the plan
the implementation
history and information about nitinol

Project: Operation Boris II

We began by going to the Robot Store and getting the kit pictured on the right, which included a book and one meter each of Flexinol™ 050, 100 & 150.
The numbers refer to the diameter of the wire in millimeters (0.05mm, 0.1mm, and 0.15mm).
The book contains a lot of info on nitinol and several instructions for various projects.
The last one looked the most interesting – to build a 6-legged (hexapod) robot, which the book called Boris.

Here is a video of a completed Boris. (676K, QuickTime format)

The … Read the rest