A perfect Christmas present to keep the little scientist busy this year is the 
build-it-yourself Robot Arm 
from Maplin Electronic stores. It takes about 2.5 hours to put together from the kit form and comes in two versions, one with a USB controller and some Windows compatible software, or with a joy-stick controller to control the motors which operate the arm. Personally I found the controllers a bit boring, so I designed and built a completely novel interface using a glove, accelerometer, some flexible resistors and like any good power tool, a safety switch which has to be pressed for the commander to operate the arm.

 

The electronic design incorporates three double H-bridge chips, an Arduino and hacking directly into the robot arm kit’s motors.

 

The user operates the base of the arm by twisting their wrist left or right, moves the lower motor which lifts the arm by raising their wrist and lowering their wrist to lower the arm. The middle two motors are controlled by the user’s middle finger and the ring finger by bending them into the palm. Moving the finger into the palm a little raises the arms joints on these two motors while bending them fully lowers the arms joints. The index finger operates the claw in a similar way, bending the finger a little closes the claw and fully bending it opens it. Pushing the safety switch illuminates the light on on the claw of the arm.

 

From the perceived usage while on display, most people go through a small learning curve  to operate the arm before they are able to lift a marker (not a set objective, but something everyone attempted to do). Many users commented on how they liked the interaction, noting that they never looked at their glove, only the arm it’s self, saying they enjoyed the sensation of becoming almost cyborg.

I’m a concept developer, inventor and problem solver in a creative, conceptual and practical manner. At the moment I am embedding myself in the Cognitive Science research group and am especially interested in sensing and interacting with groups in crowds within large scale entertainment arenas, in order to find a possible haptic design space for these noisy, difficult-to-communicate places.

Current research topic: Technology shaped to support the phenomena of exhilaration

Sensing exhilaration