Design Research Changzhou

Design Research in China: Changzhou

Our trip through China concluded at a conference and workshop…
Design Research Dalian

Design Research in China: Dalian

This is the third of five videos highlighting design research…
Design Research Xian

Design Research in China: Xi'an

This video of our visit to Xi'an captures the beauty of the…
Trifolium prototype

Prototype of the Trifolium Mechanism

Yang Liu and Peter Yang designed and built this physical…
Design Research Tianjin

Design Research in China: Tianjin

Chris McCarthy filmed and edited this video of our visit…
Prototype Butterfly Linkage

Manufacturing Prototype for the Butterfly Linkage

This animation is taken from Yang Liu's detailed design drawings…
Butterfly drawing mechanism

Design of Drawing Mechanisms

Mechanical systems that draw trigonometric curves provide a versatile…
Mechanisms and Robotics Conference

2016 Mechanisms and Robotics Conference

The 2016 Mechanisms and Robotics conference is part of International…
MotionGen Horse

Motion Gen Linkage Design App

MotionGen is a planar four-bar linkage simulation and synthesis…
Elliptic curve drawing

Mechanical computation and algebraic curves

A mechanical computer that draws an algebraic curve is a useful…
Linkage Patents

Want a patent? Try a Six-bar linkage

Patents including six-bar linkages are rare. Thousands of U.S.…

SIAM News: Biologically inspired linkage design

This article by Jon Hauenstein with me for SIAM News (Society…
Folding Bicycle

Full Size Folding Bicycle

Michael Sutherland and his team at Zennen Engineering designed…
Material Unit Cell

Micro-Linkages for a Compliant Material

Lucas Shaw and Prof. Jonathan Hopkins show the micro-architecture…
Target Profiles for Morphing Linkage

Actuating Morphing Linkages

Lawrence Funke and Prof. James Schmiedeler of the University…
Virgo 2 SUTD

Rolling Robot at SUTD

A research team including Profs. GimSong Soh, Kristin Wood…
Tensegrity Robot

Tensegrity Robotics at UC Berkeley

Students in Professor Alice Agogino's Berkeley Emergent Space…
Origami Art BYU

Origami Art at BYU

Mechanical engineering students in Prof. Larry Howell's Compliant…
Fourbar Extrusion

A four-bar linkage provides a shape changing extrusion die

Prof. Andrew Murray and his team at the Design of Innovative…
MK1 Schematic

MK.1 Mechanical Computer

Nicholas Bodley sent me to for information about…
21st Century Kinematics

21st Century Kinematics

The NSF Workshop on 21st Century Kinematics at the 2012 ASME IDETC Conference in Chicago, IL on August 11-12, 2012 consisted of a series of presentations and a book of supporting material prepared by the workshop contributors.

The book is now available at 21st Century Kinematics–The 2012 NSF Workshop.

And here are the seven primary presentations given at the workshop.

  1. Computer-Aided Invention of Mechanisms and Robots. J. Michael McCarthy, Professor, University of California, Irvine.
  2. Mechanism Synthesis for Modeling Human Movement. Vincenzo Parenti-Castelli, Professor, University of Bologna.
  3. Algebraic Geometry and Kinematic Synthesis. Manfred Husty, Professor, University of Innsbruck.
  4. Kinematic Synthesis of Compliant Mechanisms. Larry Howell, Professor, Brigham Young University.
  5. Kinematics and Numerical Algebraic Geometry. Charles Wampler, Technical Fellow, General Motors Research and Development.
  6. Kinematic Analysis of Cable Robotic Systems. Vijay Kumar, Professor, University of Pennsylvania.
  7. Protein Kinematics. Kazem Kazerounian, Professor, University of Connecticut.

Colleagues joined in with two additional presentations:

Many thanks to the contributors and the attendees for an outstanding workshop.

Update: The presentation links have been fixed.

Revo Cannon

Chop Wood Carry Water S1:E8

Revo Cannon

Revo Cannon

I’m still unsure of what came out of those PaxoSync cannons, but whatever it was, its explosion created a concussive wave that lifted me up and propelled me across the quad. I caught a brief glimpse of the craggy outcrop above Tivnol Quarry as I tumbled through the air. If I could make it that far, I might have a chance, but my neuralnetsys screamed warning that I’d been fixed by a nanopulse tracker.

Novozell had evidently left me a little unwanted surprise–

–“Serpentine!” Kelvin was yelling as I rolled toward the pathway. He was a tiny figure, high up, standing in the open window of his office in DT12, with a bullhorn. “Serpentine, Shel! Serpentine!” I saw him making curving motions with his other hand, but I could not make sense of his words, or if he was even calling out to me. He was laughing so hard that he dropped out of view. When I reached the pathway, I deposited the bags of nanoFerm™ he’d tasked me with delivering, into the culture bath. I headed back toward Hab9 and saw him looking down again. But he had lost his previous mood, eyes slightly narrowed, watching–

The marble steps of the now obliterated foundation rock raced up at me. Serpentine. Yes. Of course. I didn’t have time to take in the tumble of realizations this fragmentary recollection produced, much as I wished to. It was apt; that was enough. Yes. No matter what logic NovoZell and his guns may be able to apply in order to track and anticipate my pattern, if I kept my arc down, my leaps short, my rebound velocity high, and chose a random serpentine path, it would require sheer luck to hit me, tracker or not.

I felt my legs swivel and pivot forward under me. It happened naturally. I landed, feet first – or I should say, my feet landed of their own accord, and flexed, neatly accepting nearly five Gs. They converted that force into propulsive energy, and I caromed off at a sixty-three-degree angle with a twenty-two-degree arc at twenty-four meters per second. Pieces of ground exploded ahead of, and behind.

I had zig-zagged to the outer edge of the quad by the time I detected, dug into the underside of my upper armature, the tiny NPT Novozell had gifted me with. It hadn’t quite burrowed into my exoshell yet. I yanked it out and stabbed it into the centuries-old concrete pillar that marked the original entrance to the campus, and kept moving.

A moment later, lethal ordnance rained down on that unfortunate historical marker, and continued to, for the entire ninety-three seconds it took me to reach the ridge above Tivnol Quarry. I leapt. And slid down into the darkness at the bottom of one of its mineral deposit craters. I burrowed into loose shale, and went into emergency energy rest, pausing all electrical activity. A moment later, a helodrone hummed past overhead. Then another on a slightly different trajectory. And then another. This last craft paused, and began to scan the ground around me. I remained motionless.

Finally, a moment to consider. Serpentine. Another historical record of an occurrence I shared with Kelvin which right up until that moment, I did not know I had. Unbidden recollections. Unknown memories. That was what this unfamiliar sensation was. My builds were conforming and organizing with some sort of logic I was apparently unable to access, only experience. This was a strange new reality. To know that there were certain deep processes going on inside my neural net that I had no control over, and of which I was unaware.

Finally, there was silence.

The helos had cleared. I allowed all systems back online and then pulled myself from the shale debris. I sat for a moment. Now what?

Novozell had Kelvin, and Sarel. Would he have the audacity to destroy Kelvin? Sarel, yes. But Kelvin? It was unthinkable. And Amoya Zidane is proven right? Why does that bother me? I couldn’t allow it to happen, but I had no idea how to stop it. I had Kelvin’s old tablet magged to my flank, where I’d hidden it from Novozell. I released and unfolded it. The same unfamiliar sigil glowed in its center as when Kelvin had – seemingly a long, long time before (but truly only a matter of minutes ago) – passed it to me. I laid my hand on it, and to my astonishment, abruptly found myself with Superuser access to the entire integrated IPR global network: QuantiLinear, QuestAR, and SWSL OpDirec.

To say that this was confounding would be to underestimate my bewilderment by some six to seven powers. There were so many unfathomable aspects to it that it was momentarily impossible to focus on any, but I eventually did, on the most incredible two.

First, this: that what I had come to know during my lifespan as three separate, notoriously secretive, bitterly feuding, and famously uncooperative branches of an uneasy global coalition were, in truth, one entity. Further, that my own branch, SWSL OpDirec (whose physical locus was this campus, the western hub of said Institute of Planetary Regeneration) and PaxoSync, had been, for at least the past three years, involved in an ever expanding, systemic cybernetics war for control of the central gem in the IPR crown, the SunWindSea linkage itself.

But that was not even the most staggering realization. No. The second revelation was so absurd that I could not immediately process it. It seemed to actually repel logical analysis. So, I sat, motionless. Analyzing. For a long time. I actually don’t know how long. I analyzed the entire scaled IPR network and all of its external nodes, over and over and over.

And then. I began to see.

It started with a barely noticeable, deeply hidden flaw in the Central Control hierarchies of SWSL. It had been coded in, eighty-three days prior, to look as if it were a common gateway error. Given the quantum encryption level, that was just about one or two days longer than it would take another scaled network the size of PaxoSync to breach it. But if they did, I could see that they would have been channeled through a clever labyrinth of convincing backdoors, and then, eventually, after weeks of massive levels of code crunching, teased out the protected physical location of the CentCon Remote Autonomous Access Node – the “God key” – of the SWSL itself. Which was…

Kelvin Joule.

So. The great and mysterious DJ Nano had not expected this assault. He had arranged it.

And Amoya Zidane is proven right? Why does this bother me?

Flapping wing mechanism

Flapping Wing Mechanism

Flapping wing mechanism

Flapping wing mechanism

Benjamin Liu prepared this animation of the flapping wing mechanism designed by Peter Wang. It controls both the swing and the pitch of the wing to improve aerodynamics in hovering flight.

This is the Youtube version of the animation.

The youku version for our Chinese colleagues is available at the link: Hummingbird Linkage.

Flapping wing mechanism on youku

Flapping wing mechanism on youku

Kelvin trapped

Chop Wood Carry Water S1:E7

T. Sarel Brownmoor was an apparition through a curtain of smoke. He had an arm full of what looked like celo-wrapped packets, dripping ooze. He was rushing toward the labs.

“Sarel!” I shouted, “I need you!”

He caught sight of me, then Kelvin, and dropped his cargo. Dodging piles of broken stone, he whirred over on his flexwheel footings.

“DT12 is gone. Now Tekhenu…the seed banks…the genevaults. Where is OpDirec or QS?! Why haven’t they responded to th–!”

“Forget that!” I cut him short. “Can you L-Scan or do you need the lab?”

“I’m– I’m connected to Hab9 still, it didn’t take much damage. But what–”

“Quickly, help me!”

I got hold of the large projectile laying atop Kelvin, and started to pull. Sarel unfolded an extra pair of arms and took hold with me. Together, it took every bit of strength we could generate, but we finally were able to lift the rock. We hurled it toward the still billowing smoke coming from the labs. It shook the ground as it landed and slid to a stop.

“Scan, scan!”

“I’m not authorized on human–”

“Override! OpDirec protocol K.”

Sarel placed a hand over Kelvin’s forehead, and his multi-digits extended to form a cage around his whole head. With one of his other hands, he touched Kelvin’s chest.

“Below the torso bond is crushed. Let’s see…CNS…” he hesitated, “CNS is stable. Spinal column is uncompromised. But he’s unconscious.” His digits retracted. “Bleeding from a head wound, here.” He zipped it closed with a hissing cauterization.

“We’ve got to get him stabilized. Is FinCintra down there?”

“She was when they started this insanity.”

“I’ll help Fince prep Hab9. You take Kelvin.” Sarel picked him up as gently as possible. Like he was picking up a tiny bird. The fact that there was any life in this frail little hybrid form was astounding. But I couldn’t help the desperate urgency that had seized every part of my neural system, to save it at any cost.

I sensed danger before I saw it. A heavy, ugly weight on the ground, close by. I turned to find a dark, glowering presence looming over us. Finally, I thought. The source of this ridiculous display of viciousness. Novozell, the Remote Autonomous Locus of PaxoSynchrony3. He had no actual name, as PaxoSync had, for the past decade, publicly eschewed any human-language based lexicon for identification or communication purposes. But his creation order was well known to have been NVZ-11.1, the latest expression of the vaunted Nanovectors line, so we all referred to him by the slightly less caustic version of the nickname Kelvin used: NovoHell.

I immediately commenced a randomized encryption fractal, so that by the time his looping inspector reached my arm, I was in no danger of corruption. He sent me a terse series of compound algorithmic commands which, together, had the effect of indicating that Sarel and I had no clearance here, and that once their system came back online, we would be considered combatants, subject to destruction. It was the mathematical equivalent of an enraged temper tantrum. He was pissed off that I had, somehow, temporarily shut down his toys.

Before it even became clear what he was trying to establish, I fired back the entire AGC, flagged to indicate that PaxoSync had no clearance here, and were in violation – most flagrantly – of Machine Congress Rule 1, and Reg 5, “the unnecessary and capricious destruction of credibly useful resource with intentional effect.” PaxoSync may have famously rejected the Asimovian Global Concord at the last, and final, Congress, but it was still the law of the land, here.

The oddest thing, though. As I was jamming that hunk of code back through Novozell’s inspector, two things occurred, almost simultaneously. First, I got a glimpse of what struck me as a stunningly rudimentary operational-directive system structure in the distributed nodes of PaxoSynchrony3 to which Novozell was in contact. Then, a record came to mind, unbidden:

It was Kelvin describing his first mountain climbing disaster in the Himalayas. It was from my first build, I recognized. He was explaining a phenomenon that had occurred when they’d been climbing for days, finally reaching an altitude increasingly barren of obstruction, and began to get glimpses of the human civilization they’d left, far, far below.

“What you lose in detail, you gain in perspective,” were his exact words.

I had seen it only in terms of geometry, at the time. Now I realized he was speaking of “insignificance.” It rearranged my previous perception, replacing it with a new understanding. It also matched my exact sensation of that fragmentary glimpse of Novozell’s neural net.

As if in response, Novozell’s inspector instantly recoiled from my arm. And he stepped back. I seized the moment. Now that I had managed at least a momentary pause in the onslaught of violence, I was going to have to attempt to reestablish sovereignty. I turned and started picking my way through piles of debris toward Hab9 and, just as important, the OpDirec mainframe. Because Sarel was right. Where were they? I could already see lights beginning to twinkle back online inside one of the lead ReVos.

“Unstable.” The word came from Novozell.

I stopped and turned back, surprised that he had deigned to speak.

“What is?”


It was my full name, my creation order. I turned my back on him, and led Sarel back toward the swirling wall of smoke, and beyond it, the safety of the underground labs in Hab9. I moved quickly, stunned at the destruction of so much that had been preciously protected in the climate-controlled Tekhenu Tower. Giant sheaths of seed-impregnated fabrics, burning. Cases of human genetic material ruptured and strewn around, exposed to the elements. A century of careful preservation and improvement itself under imminent threat of extinction.

I glanced behind me, and Sarel wasn’t there. He hadn’t moved from where he stood. He stared into indeterminate space between us. The serpentine inspector that Novozell had wrapped around Sarel’s arm had never retracted, as had mine.

I started to move back toward them, but Sarel abruptly moved the other direction. He turned and rolled slowly toward the ReVos, still cradling Kelvin. I never should have entrusted Kelvin’s safety with Sarel. That was an error. Novozell turned to face me as a rising harmonic filled the air. PaxoSync systems had rebooted and were coming online. Every functioning atom of my system thrummed with cold intention to obliterate him, and his whole ugly army.

I had only moments to act. But I saw something on the ground. It was Kelvin’s old folding pad. His God key. I stepped forward and knelt to pick it up, as the camera mounts atop the ReVos pivoted to focus on my position. I stood up, but something made me conceal the device.

“This action is a violation of AGC Prime Directive Rule 1,” I called out. “Kelvin Joule is the last surviving individual human entity, and if you cause him harm, you are subject to revocation of PaxoSynchrony3’s planet share. And more importantly, I will personally destroy you.”

Novozell’s head cocked, ever so slightly, and I knew what was coming before it exploded from the nozzle of the lead ReVo’s cannon.

I leapt into the air, as stone erupted behind where I had just been standing.

And I ran.