Product Design Shorts: Wearable robotics, 3D animals, NASA needs you … and more




Some of our favorite product design stories this week.

Drawing a bike with pen and paper: It ain’t easy

Ever try to draw a bicycle on paper (put away your CAD software!)? Back in 2009 Italian designer Gianluca Gimini started asking designers, friends, and strangers to draw a bike using pen and paper for his Velocipedia project. “When confronted with this odd request most people had a very hard time remembering exactly how a bike is made,” he says. Here’s an example:

Courtesy: Gianluca Gimini

Over the years, he’s collected hundreds of drawings, building up a collection with an “incredible diversity of new typologies emerging from these crowd-sourced and technically error-driven drawings. A single designer could not invent so many new bike designs in 100 lifetimes.”

And, since he’s a designer, he took some of the almost child-like drawings (we’re not knocking them – not all of us can draw a bike, either) and mocked them up. Here’s the above bike, rendered in 3D:

Courtesy: Gianluca Gimini

The moral of the story? Well, one, not everyone is a designer and two, designing something simple can be more complicated than designing something with a zillion parts.

Wearable robotic gets streamlined

Wearable robotics help humans move better through the use of headsets and gloves or full, wired suits (some that can be worn under street clothes). Where would you use that kind of tech? Think military, dangerous expeditions, law enforcement, or bringing the groceries in. Now, SRI International has launched a spinoff venture just to develop these wearables and enhance the human musculoskeletal system for a number of applications. Superflex technology was originally developed for the DARPA-funded Warrior Web program to enhance human performance, reduce injury risk, and increase the weight of equipment that soldiers could carry. No clunky, heavy armor here. We’re excited to see where SRI takes this technology.

Caption: Superhero? Ultimate gym workout gear? Nope. It’s new wearable robotic technology.

3D modeling: Think of the animals!

As you may know, 3D modeling has its issues when it comes to animals (nature doesn’t always use the easiest geometry). A recent article from ASME illustrates how a professor is developing a multi-camera system (aka The Beastcam) to capture animals from all sides to help with better 3D modeling.  According to the article, all components of the system were off-the-shelf, including a high-end consumer camera, using a Loc-Line for the arms and more. They also 3D printed (nice!) the camera mounts. The professor sees this technology growing and even for uses in non-moving objects like museums to help shoot and catalog valuable objects.

Please shoot my right side – it’s much more attractive. (Photo: Wikimedia)

NASA needs ideas

NASA (yes, that NASA) is soliciting ideas “from U.S. industry for designs of a Mars orbiter for potential launch in the 2020s.” The satellite would provide advanced communications and imaging, as well as robotic science exploration, in support of NASA's Journey to Mars. What kinds of ideas?  Things like experimental cutting-edge technologies, such as high-power solar electric propulsion or an optical communications package, which could greatly improve transmission speed and capacity over radio frequency systems. We know all of your great ideas are being used up for our own contest (hey, will NASA give you $15k in cold cash and a trip to LiveWorx?) but after April 29th (that’s our deadline) you’re free to share ideas elsewhere! Good luck!

Can you help in the journey to Mars? (Photo: NASA)

Speaking of LiveWorx

We’re excited about this: Co-hosts and executive producers of the hit Discovery Channel TV show, MythBusters, will serve as keynotes at LiveWorx 2016. Adam and Jamie's combined backgrounds in animatronics, robotics, model building and prototyping promise an audacious game-changing presentation. They will address problem solving, risk taking, and the importance of looking at things in new ways. Still need to register? Do it!