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Top image: Designing and making pottery by wrestling with a robot.

Bottom image: Designing and making abakography (computational lightpaintings) by wresting with a robot.


The world of CAD reminded me of the old days of computer programming when you had to write your code on a keypunch machine and then bring the cards to the machine to process them and then wait, and eventually get a printout of the results later.

Today's CAD is like that: you have to think of something specific, design it, and then make the toolpath for it and produce it, and then see your result later.

I wanted to challenge that idea like I challenged computing in the 1970s with the existential concept of wearable computing (constantly "being" the computer rather than using it as a separate -- and much delayed -- process).

The CAD equivalent to this immediacy-of-computation is something I call "Undigital Cyborg Craft", i.e. "Being Undigital" with digital computers.

So I wanted to make a robot (or adapt an existing one) that I could wrestle with to make things with serendipity and spontaneity (i.e. without having to plan everything in advance).

Here let's take an industrial style robotic arm, and equip it with a capacity to be interacted with, while it is doing computer-aided manufacture (in some sense going straight to CAM without CAD).

In this way, we make CAD into a form of "tinquiry" (tinkering as a form of inquiry).

Step 1: Make a Controller for the Robot

Let's begin by making CAD into a collaborative process.

We have a classic style of robot that has analog inputs and therefore invites interactivity.

The first step is to make an external controller for the robot, so that one person can wrestle with it while another person is controlling it. Later we'll make it autonomous or semi-autonomous, so we (collaboratively) can wrestle with it while it makes things. Since the robot is controlled in a very simple fashion, a simple joystick control can be easily connected to it, directly, or through the Internet!

Our ultimate goal is to try and understand how we can link machines over the internet among multiple users, and have new forms of collaboration at-a-distance, e.g. so we have haptic augmented reality shared experiences, as in one of my previous Instructables dealing with HARCAD/HARCAM (Haptic Augmented Reality CAD/CAM).

Let's consider, for example, a system that lets two users in different countries, have a waterfight.

Once we have some fun with this idea, we'll return to having two or more users collaboratively edit a Fusion 360 file using augmented reality haptics.

One reason I like water is that it makes for a very real ("undigital") kind of experience you can't really get inside a VR headset, for example.

Water has been a theme in some of my past Instructables as well.

Just amazing...

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Bio: I grew up at a time when technologies were transparent and easy to understand, but were evolving toward insanity and incomprehensibility. So I wanted to ... More »
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