ROBOT: Spherical Motor Allows Flexibility

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Wed Nov 14 2001 - 06:50:24 MST

A Superior Spherical Motor
Researchers have developed a spherical motor that may let robots loosen up.
Unlike a conventional motor, which turns on an axis, the new device can rotate
in any direction. As such, the globe-shaped motor, which utilizes
computer-controlled electromagnets, could one day impart greater flexibility
to robotic arms.

To build their better motor, mechanical engineer Gregory S. Chirikjian and
doctoral student David Stein of Johns Hopkins University mounted 80 magnets
inside a hollow sphere, which was then lowered into a cradle lined with
electromagnets. Activating two or more of these electromagnets attracts
certain magnets within the sphere, pulling it into a new position.

The researchers have high hopes for their creation-including replacing the
conventional motors found in today's robot arms. In fact, using the
shoulder-joint-like spherical motors in place of today's motors, which are
elbow-like, "you'd be able to use far fewer joints because each motor would
have more freedom of motion," Chirikjian notes. "This would also enable the
robotic arm to be more accurate because every time you have a joint, you
introduce a little bit of play, a little bit of wiggle to the arm."

The spherical motor could also make its way into your computer mouse. "Right
now most everything on a computer is visual in nature," Chirikjian observes.
"But one can imagine that in the future this interaction will involve more of
the sense of touch."

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Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI,
non-sensory experience

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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