Sunday, January 13, 2008

Leonardo's Lost Robots

I'm reading a very interesting book called Leonardo's Lost Robots by Mark Elling Rosheim.

Here is a portion of the description from the book's rear cover - "Leonardo´s Lost Robots reinterprets Leonardo da Vinci's mechanical design work, revealing a new level of sophistication not recognized by art historians or engineers. By identifying his major technological projects, the book revisits Leonardo's legacy of notebooks, showing that apparently unconnected fragments from dispersed manuscripts actually comprise cohesive designs for functioning automata. Using the rough sketches scattered throughout almost all of Leonardo's papers, Rosheim has reconstructed Leonardo's programmable cart, which was the platform for other automata: a Robot Lion, a Robot Knight, and a hydraulically powered automaton for striking a bell. Through a readable, lively narrative, Mark Rosheim recounts his adventures rediscovering and reconstructing da Vinci's designs.

Rosheim attended the University of Minnesota, studying mechanical engineering. He has developed robotic technologies for NASA, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy, and is the founder and president of Ross-Hime Designs, Inc., a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based mechanical design company. He holds over 20 patents in robot technology, and has published and lectured extensively around the world on the topic of robot technology and history.

In the preface, he describes how in 1965, he received a Lost in Space Remco Toy Robot. When its arms didn't move by themselves, he declared to his Dad, "But it's a Robot. They're supposed to move on their own." His quest to build such a robot and to understand the mechanical principles of human motion and dexterity led him to investigate the anatomical and mechanical drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. Utilizing a new approach, he began to reconnect the tell-tale fragments into a cohesive whole. Rosheim's website is worth a look too.

Rosheim has another book, called Robot Evolution: The Development of Anthrobotics, which I have on order. It is supposed to be very good too!

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