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MM: Building A Better Ballbot, Airbag For Your Head

In this episode, building a robot on spherical induction motors and an airbag for your head.

Building A Better Ballbot

We’re in the infancy of a world of robots and another member of the robot clan has emerged, the slim form SIMbot. Created by Professor Ralph Hollis, a robotics researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, the SIMbot has a single ball system to get around and uses an experimental induction motor rather than a mechanical drive system for mobility, which results in a robot with minimal moving parts. 

Ballbots have been around for some time, but the belts that drive the rollers wear out and need to be replaced, requiring recalibration of the system. To combat those issues, the team looked to induction motors that use magnetic fields to induce an electrical current and generate torque rather than rely on electrical connections. Using spherical induction motors, or SIM, is a challenge, but allows for a spherical motor that can spin freely in any direction. The SIM rests on a hollow iron ball inside a copper shell. Six laminated steel stators sit alongside the ball and produce traveling magnetic waves, guiding the ball in that direction. By altering the currents produced by the stators, the SIMbot can be steered in different directions.


Could this lead to cheaper, more reliable ballbots? How could you see bots like this being used in a manufacturing setting? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below. 

Airbag For Your Head

Airbags for cars have been around for decades, but now, thanks to Swedish company Hövding, an airbag for your head could be the next big thing. Bicyclists, rejoice!

A team at Stanford has put the self-inflating airbag helmet through its paces with drop tests showing they may be up to six times better at cushioning an impact than traditional foam helmets —protecting against skull fractures and possibly concussions.

The Hövding is designed to sit around a rider’s neck, like a puffy scarf. Once it detects a collision, it quickly inflates and wraps around the head just in time to soften the blow. 

During tests, helmets were pre-inflated to the optimum pressure. In the real world, the helmets are designed to self-inflate when a collision is detected. Scientists say the process may not guarantee the airbag will inflate to the safest pressure, in which case the wearer could be worse off than if they were wearing a standard foam helmet. However, it is possible that future versions could predict how bad an impact is going to be and inflate the helmet to the optimum pressure.

The airbag helmet is already available in parts of Europe but has yet to made its way to the U.S.

Could self-inflating helmets be the answer to reducing bicycle accident related head injuries? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below.

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