Bush Robots - Fingers On Your Fingers On Your Fingers...
In his 1941 novel Methuselah's Children, Robert Heinlein writes about a human baby modified by an alien race. The baby was given the following "improvements" (among others):
"...it's body architecture has been redesigned for greater efficiency, our useless simian hangovers have been left out, and its organs have been rearranged in a more sensible fashion. You can't say it's not human, for it is... an improved model. Take that extra appendage at the wrist. That's another hand, a miniature one... backed up by a microscopic eye. You can see how useful that would be, once you got used to the idea."
Heinlein also pursued similar ideas a bit earlier in his 1940 novella Waldo, his story about, well, waldoes - he originated the concept as well as the term. A waldo is a remote manipulator that mimics human motion at larger and smaller scales. For example, waldoes that looked like mechanical hands that were six feet across could bend steel girders, as well as "tiny pixy hands, an inch across" used for miniature work. In his later work Time Enough for Love, he wrote about "ultramicrominiature waldoes" that could be used for gene surgery.
Roboticist Hans Moravec, working with sf writer Robert Forward, conceived of a more "fractal" version of this idea; a "bush robot" (also called a "Fractal branching ultra-dexterous robot") that literally had manipulators on its manipulators on its manipulators... you get the idea.
(Moravec Bush Robot simulation)
Moravec states that this idea is at least a half-century from being practical; among the advances required are
See the entry for Christmas bush motile robot for more information from Forward.
- Computational power increased at least a millionfold in density
- Capacity to build mechanical structures over the entire range of scales
- Scalable high-power actuators
- Scalable high-density power distribution and storage
- High-strength materials.
The Christmas Bush can stick a "hand" inside a delicate piece of equipment, and using its lasers as a light source and its detectors as eyes, rearrange the parts inside for a near instantaneous repair. The Christmas Bush also has the ability to detach portions of itself to make smaller motiles. These can walk up the walls and along the ceilings with the tiny cilia holding onto microscopic cracks in the surface.
Ken MacLeod, in Engine City, wrote about a kind of alien tarantula that was directly inspired by Moravec's work:
...At the end of each appendage's eight fingers there are tinier appendages, eight of them, and these fingers' fingerlets are what open out to grasp the microscopic frictions of the pane...
(Read more about the alien tarantula)
For a bizarre illustration of both Heinlein's and Moravec's ideas that is perfectly suited to Halloween, see the Dactyl Fractal Zoom at Zapato Productions. A static sample is shown below.
(Dactyl Fractal Zoom)
Be sure to see this finger fractal zoom for yourself (and check out the Zapato Productions homepage). Find out more about Robert Heinlein's waldoes; see more on Hans Moravec and bush robots. Found this one on Posthuman Blues.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/30/2005)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 11 )
Related News Stories -
Bush Robots - Fingers On Your Fingers On Your Fingers...
From Heinlein to Moravec to MacLeod - bush robots are cool.
Amateur Innovators - This Is Your Century!
the 21st century could mark the return of the talented (and obsessed!) amateur to the first ranks of science. This is a fantastically useful and interesting observation; this observation could be as important as the ideas in The Structure of Scientif
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
TytoCare Offers Futuristic Home Care
'Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling...'
Powdered Regolith Propulsion
'... filling their great tanks with the finely divided dust which the ionic rockets would spit out in electrified jets.'
Ford's SafeCap, Opposite Of Niven and Barnes' Napcap
'In the napcap a client became an instant yoga master...'
Would You Get 'Chipped'? Michigan May Ban Employers
'Employees above a certain level were implanted with advanced microprocessors...'
Tesla Autopilot: What Does An Autonomous Car See When It Looks At The Road?
'Jeremiah is a sports-model to begin with and that kind is awfully hot-tempered.'
DNA Controls Swarms Of Molecular Robots
'They exist in loose swarms...'
Tether Asteroids To Save Us All
'If anything can glue the asteroids back into the planet they once were, magnology will do it.'
Blaux Your Personal Commuter Cooling Unit
A cooling unit had to be strapped to every commuter's back, by law.
3D Printed Damascus Steel Now Possible
'...lined with durite, that strange close-packed laboratory product.'
R9X Hellfire Missile With Long Blades Kills Queda Leader
'He was still roaring when the knife missile flicked past him...'
Would You Swallow An Origami Robot?
'Swallow it in an emergency--it goes down easily and works just as well inside as outside.'
Perhaps You Might Be Interested In Habitable Exoplanet Moon Real Estate
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
Blurry Face Photos Made 60 Times Sharper
Perfect tool for blade runners.
SpaceX Will Build Floating Spaceports!
'...a single perfectly level platform, which rose so high above the water that it was not splashed by the waves.'
Fast Radio Bursts And Space Beacons For Interstellar Navigation
'Every beacon has a code signal as part of its radiation...'
Robot Garbage Trucks Visualized
'It was a bulky, shining cylinder over twenty metres long.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories