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Robot

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Robot lamp

Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Robot

Smithsonian American Art Museum

"Tortoise" Mobile Robot

National Museum of American History
Among the first electronic mobile robots were the experimental machines of neuroscientist W. Grey Walter. Walter studied the brain’s electrical activity at the Burden Neurological Institute (BNI) near Bristol, England. His battery-powered robots were models to test his theory that a minimum number of brain cells can control complex behavior and choice. Soon after World War II, electronic motors and computers made possible such experimental robots that imitated living intelligence. Researchers like Walter then sought to answer a question that still occupies their successors: How close can machines come to human intelligence?

In the late 1940s Walter built his first model animals—simple, slow-moving, tortoise-shaped machines he named Elmer and Elsie. In 1951, Walter enlisted BNI engineer W. J. Warren to build the robot displayed here.

The machines are designed to explore their environment and react to it with two senses—sight and touch. A rotating photoelectric cell, the machine’s “eye,” scans the horizon continuously until it detects an external light. Scanning stops and the machine either moves toward the light source or, if the source is too bright, moves away. An external contact switch, sensitive to touch, causes the machine to retreat if it encounters obstacles. The robots retreat to a recharging station when their batteries were low.

Untitled (robot)

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Untitled (robot)

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Sandia Interior Robot (SIR)

National Museum of American History
Built in 1985, this robot was a prototype designed as a sentry at Sandia National Laboratories. Capable of operating by remote control or autonomously, the Sandia Interior Robot (SIR) was the only robot of its day able to navigate a building without a predetermined pathway or electric floor guides. It emerged from a program started ten years earlier to develop technologies for detecting interior intrusions for the Department of Energy’s nuclear safeguards efforts. SIR was the first of a fleet of vehicles Sandia researchers built as test beds for applying robotics to interior and exterior security.

SIR is a mobile platform with three wheels. At the time of its donation to the Smithsonian it carried a sonar (ultrasonic) sensor array—a circular arrangement of 30 Polaroid transceivers—and a Pulnix video camera for optical sensing. These sensors allow the robot to locate walls and other obstacles. It also carried, at various times, a magnetic compass to provide azimuth information, an odometer to record distance traveled and a steering motor for adjusting wheels for navigation.

Although SIR has its own on-board computer (a 6805 microprocessor in 1987), it was originally designed to communicate through a modem with a remote host computer (an IBM-compatible PC with 512KB RAM in 1987). Researchers at Sandia mainly used the robot to test new algorithms for room mapping, navigation and path following. They also used it to test other interior sensing and security systems.

SIR’s chief builders were J. J. Harrington and P. R. Klarer.

"Ghostrider" Robot Motorcycle

National Museum of American History
“Ghostrider” is a robot motorcycle that drives itself, with no human intervention once it is underway. The motorcycle was the only two-wheeled entrant in the autonomous vehicle races of 2004 and 2005 sponsored by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The goal of the races was to stimulate invention for a future fleet of driverless military ground vehicles. Congress funded the competitions to support its directive that one-third of U.S. military ground vehicles be unmanned by 2015.

The robot is based on a Yamaha 90cc-engine racing motorcycle, a small vehicle designed for teenagers. For the 2004 race, the motorcycle was modified to carry two arms to right the vehicle after a fall; video cameras; computers; a GPS receiver; inertial measurement units (IMUs) to measure the angle of the vehicle; and motors to actuate the throttle, clutch and steering. For the 2005 race, cameras and GPS receiver were upgraded. “Ghostrider” covered with sponsor decals and race number: 7.

The group developing “Ghostrider,” originated at University of California, Berkeley, and called itself the Blue Team. Team members included leader Anthony Levandowski, who specialized in developing the robot’s software for obstacle avoidance; Charles Smart, in charge of programming the GPS and stability; Andrew Schultz, in charge of programming the electrical engines; Bryon Majusiale, team mechanic and frame fabrication; and Howard Chau, mechanical design .

robot, hopping

National Museum of American History

PCR Robot

National Museum of American History
This robot was constructed in 1987 by Dr. Kenneth Kinzler and his colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center's Molecular Genetics Lab run by Dr. Bert Vogelstein. It was used to conduct PCR in research on the p53 gene, which is linked to 50 percent of human cancers. Polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, is a chemical reaction that can create a huge number of copies of sections of DNA from a very small sample. Kinzler and his fellow researchers started using PCR immediately after the technique was published in Science in 1985. The technique revolutionized their ability to do research, but it was time-consuming, requiring continuous, repeated changes in temperature. (For this reason, PCR is also known as thermal cycling.) Automated commercial PCR machines were not available until 1987, and were hard to come by due to high demand and a hefty price tag. Low on funding and unwilling to wait, the researchers at Hopkins decided to make their own PCR machine. Over the course of two days, they constructed this robot out of parts found around their lab and objects available at Radio Shack and hardware stores. The robot has a moving arm that transfers the DNA sample between two water baths of different temperatures. A programmable lab timer from another piece of lab equipment makes up the “brains” of the robot. A TV antenna rotator from Radio Shack moves the arm (a long wooden dowel) back and forth, and a solenoid from a dishwasher door lock lowers the arm into the bath. To give the robot a bit of personality, the scientists added a styrofoam head, sunglasses, and a navy baseball cap with a gold star and gold braid detailing. One part of the object has been painted with a red “BV,” likely for “Bert Vogelstein.” All of these parts are assembled on a two-tiered wood frame. Thanks to help from the robot, the researchers were able to determine the function of the p53 gene. Prior to their work, p53 was known to be linked to cancer, but its function was not understood. The Hopkins team’s research determined that p53 is a tumor suppressor gene, regulating cells whose DNA is damaged. Mutations in the gene destroy this regulatory function and result in cancer. The team published their results on April 14, 1989 in a Science article entitled “Chromosome 17 Deletions and p53 Gene Mutations in Colorectal Carcinomas.”

Robot Revolution

National Portrait Gallery

EMRoS (Epson Micro Robot System)

National Museum of American History
Seiko Epson Corporation, Japan, began the design of a series of microrobots, the EMRoS, starting in 1993. They are all mobile robots that chase a light source. At the time, they were the world's smallest mobile microrobots (approx. 1cm cubed).

This set contains two microrobots, dates from about 1995, and represents the fourth type of EMRoS. The robot shell is made of silver. Inside of each are about 98 parts, many of which are based on watch components, a strength in Seiko's product lines. Each robot has two "eyes" sensitive to light. A flashlight, included in the set, can be used to attract the robots. Instead of battery power, each robot receives a charge from its container that allows it to run for some minutes. The robot's whiskers provide the electrical contact to the charging station.

Seiko Epson originally designed and built the micro robots as a research project, but then made a limited edition of each generation for sale at about $500 per set for entertainment purposes.

"Stanley" Robot Car

National Museum of American History
This vehicle can navigate for itself, without a human in the driver’s seat or at remote controls. The robot’s creators nicknamed the modified Volkswagen Touareg “Stanley.”

In a brief but spectacular racing career, Stanley beat twenty-two other robot vehicles for the $2 million prize in the Grand Challenge, held in October 2005 on a demanding 132-mile desert course near Las Vegas, Nevada. The goal of the race, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), was to stimulate invention for a future fleet of driverless military ground vehicles. Congress funded the competition to support its directive that one-third of U.S. military ground vehicles be unmanned by 2015.

Stanley represents a promising research direction in artificial intelligence, or machine thinking. Through sophisticated programs in onboard computers, the vehicle decides how to navigate mapped terrain and unmapped obstacles in real time. It integrates a course map expressed in about 3,000 points of latitude and longitude, stored memory of past experiences, and new information about the road ahead gathered from roof-mounted laser sensors, video cameras, radar and GPS receivers.

Behind Stanley’s driverless accomplishment is the work of nearly 100 people at Stanford University and Volkswagen’s Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL), both in Palo Alto, California.

DARPA’s Grand Challenge of 2005 pitted autonomous vehicles against each other and a ten-hour limit on a punishing dirt course with steep cliffs, sharp turns, and countless obstacles. Only Stanley and four other competitors finished the course. The race’s experimental robots—all sponsored by businesses, universities and individuals—emerged from research for military purposes and demonstrated the feasibility of self-navigating vehicles.

Like the impact of integrated circuits, the Internet, and other technologies with strong military connections, the impact of the robot race is likely to be felt in other areas of American life, especially automotive safety.

Camera, Robot Recorder, 35mm

National Air and Space Museum
This Robot Recorder 36 camera is similar to that used by Scott Carpenter on his Aurora 7 mission during Project Mercury. Mercury astronauts often used store-bought cameras for their missions, with some modifications for easier use in space. A handle and trigger were attached to this camera to allow an astronaut to snap photographs with gloved hands.

This camera was transferred from NASA to the Museum in 1977.

Wind-up toy (robot)

Smithsonian American Art Museum

mini robot, prototype

National Museum of American History

robot, plume-tracing

National Museum of American History

robot, wheeled hopping

National Museum of American History

robot, plume-tracing

National Museum of American History

mini robot, prototype

National Museum of American History

Starship Delivery Robot

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

CanguRo Mobility Robot

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Camera, Robot, 35mm, MA-9, Faith 7

National Air and Space Museum
This hand-held Robot camera was used by astronaut L. Gordon Cooper during his Faith 7 mission on May 15 and 16, 1963, to photograph atmospheric phenomena. Early American space flights carried no official photographic equipment. By the end of Project Mecury, however, astronauts were often asked to particpate in photographic experiments. Cooper brought this camera on his mission to take photographs of the airglow layer and zodiacal light (dim-light photography) as part of an experiment for the University of Minnesota.

For use in space, the camera was modestly modifed to make it easier for Cooper to use while wearing his pressure suit. NASA added an automatic advance feature, fixed lens, and three small red "feet" to make it easier for Cooper to take photos up against the glass window of the spacecraft.

This camera was transferred from NASA to the Museum in 1976.

Silver Robot Mask

NMNH - Education & Outreach
This object is part of the Education and Outreach collection, some of which are in the Q?rius science education center and available to see.

A toy robot mask made in Japan by TBS Nichion, a broadcasting and music publishing company. The silver plastic mask depicts a robot with a prominent bridge running down the forehead and between the eyes. Two rectangular protrusions from the side of the head and the mouth have been spray painted red but the pigment is worn away. The two oval eyes are covered in a transparent orange plastic. Below the chin of the mask is a TBS Nichion sticker. A string is attached to both sides of the mask to affix it to the face.
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