Neil's News


14 October 2011

I'm fine, it's just a sprained wrist.

While cycling to work on Wednesday an oncoming Muni bus unexpectedly turned across my path. I had to brake hard to come to a stop. But I didn't have the presence of mind to simultaneously unclip my feet from the pedals, so my bike and I fell over sideways onto the pavement. My right wrist bore the brunt of the landing.

[X-ray of wrist]

After examining it, the doctor sent me in for x-rays. No bone fractures were found, so its just a bad sprain. My hand will be immobilized in a splint for a week or so. As an added bonus, the presence of metal in the splint earned me my first enhanced pat-down at SFO the next day.

[Splint on wrist]

It is eye-opening to see how dependent we are on having one highly dextrous manipulator plus a second less dextrous gripper. Currently I only have the latter. Opening doors, eating, getting dressed, all a challenge.

This immediately makes me think of industrial robotics. In most cases multiple arms are kept separate specifically so that they don't interact. There are a few demos of interaction, but for the most part these are just demos. Factories would be a lot less productive if all their employees were one-armed, so why are all their robots one-armed?

As most of you know, I've been experimenting with sonar on San Francisco Bay. My first design wasn't watertight and flooded. My second design escaped and was lost to the depths. My third design was mechanically successful and made it all the way across the bay, pinging and recording. Unfortunately it too is a failure. The sound of water flowing past the microphone drowns out everything else. Also the velocity profile of a kayak is sinusoidal, which doesn't help matters. I don't think it is possible to do towed sonar using a mobile phone and tupperware.

[Audio waveform of towed sonar]
sonar-flow.mp3 (483 kb, 60 seconds)

However, that doesn't mean stationary sonar is impossible. For my fourth attempt I'll paddle a bit, stop, take a reading, repeat. Though I need to wait for my wrist to heal first.

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