Is our humanity being sacrificed at the altar of automation? Jonathan Tippett, founder of the Prosthesis project, a 7,500 pound, 15-foot tall, anti-robot believes this to be true.
It’s not that wild of an opinion if you think of it. Cars are probably the standard example for man and machine working as one. A car is something to look at without its driver. Well that is until driverless cars started filling up mainstream news. There are certainly benefits to self-driving cars. Experts seem to agree that accidents and traffic jams will be problems of the past once artificial intelligence (AI) takes the wheel. As wonderful as a streamlined commute sounds, riding shotgun with an automated chauffer could end the most successful collaboration between man and machine: driving.
That’s where Prosthesis comes in. What is Prosthesis? It’s an electric-powered human-controlled quadripedal racing robot. Think Ripley’s power loader in Aliens or Avatar’s AMP suit – cool machines requiring a skilled human operator. Tippett’s goal is to create a machine that amplifies the human experience. An experience that reminds you of the first time you hopped on a bike or got behind the wheel. You have a feeling of accomplishment, but understand there’s an element of danger. “I’m drawing from elements requiring physical skill and extreme focus while mixing in a certain amount of consequence,” Tippett said. “In other words, if you screw up, you might hurt yourself. This is the magic elixir of what makes you feel alive.”
Piloting Prosthesis is a lot like learning to ride a bike all over again, which is exactly the sense Tippett is striving to achieve. “Prosthesis is more about earning an experience requiring practice and training and is not handed to you on a silver platter,” Tippett believes. “Technology threatens to diminish experience because it hands you everything. That’s why it’s important to create a machine dependent on human control.”
Visiting Tippett’s project site, anti-robot.com, might give you the wrong impression about his stance toward robotics and artificial intelligence. As is often the case with robots, there’s more than meets the eye. “I’m not anti-robot as in ‘no robots’, ‘robots are bad’ or ‘AI should be banned’,” Tippett stated. “Prosthesis is an awareness campaign to ensure the counterpoint is recognized.”
That counterpoint, from Tippett’s perspective is remembering what it’s like to explore our humanity. “Before we rush headlong into a technological utopia, we mustn’t forget ourselves and what is exciting and rewarding about the human experience.”
The design software behind this new human experience: SOLIDWORKS. Tippett is no stranger to SOLIDWORKS. In fact, he was a presenter at SOLIDWORKS World 2014 where he took the stage to discuss his work on the eatART Foundation’s Mondo Spider. This time around, Tippett has been taking advantage of FEA.
SOLIDWORKS Simulation has enabled the Prosthesis Team to conduct drop tests, as well as optimize its design for tubing, wall thickness, and architecture. Tippett is now looking into motion analysis to better understand suspension design and stability. In all, Tippet believes this will cut months off the design cycle. “SOLIDWORKS represents what enables us to go from inventors to engineers,” he said. “It catapults the project from a great idea with a plucky team of crafty folks to a seriously engineered machine.”
Stay up to date with the Prosthesis project at anti-robot.com. You can also follow the project on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Hopefully, you’ll even get to follow Prosthesis to a future SOLIDWORKS World!