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Mechanical Computer Flexes Its Muscle

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Part of the works of a mechanical computer.

A modernized mechanical computer developed by a pair of researchers in New Zealand, which they say holds great potential for robotics.

Credit: Ars Technica

New Zealand researchers have developed an artificial, muscle-based computer that could have significant potential for the field of robotics.

The computer is based on the concept of the universal Turing machine, whose simplest form reads just three different states, has only two internal states, and can move tape either right or left. Only six operations are possible with such a machine.

The researchers built the machine out of a set of elastomers, configured so they could run sets of electrical relays that drove other muscles. The tape was pulled right and left by a set of weights controlled by a cam system, actuated by still another muscle.

Once the machine was built, the researchers checked the output against manual calculations of the computer's output. The device reached a computational speed of 0.15 Hz, and in principle it is capable of calculating anything.

The researchers contend this innovation is a beginning for self-thinking robotic muscles. A robot that employs local reflexive computation will probably need a fast and nonlinear feedback system, which can be naturally built into muscles, but not into routine actuators.

From Ars Technica
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Abstracts Copyright © 2013 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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