Begun as part of the OSbot program under the Open Source Everything Project, the VersaBot would be a simple modular robotics platform that would serve the basis of a large assortment of utility, research, and entertainment robots on Aquarius colonies and form the basis of a robust international business venture under the GreenStar Robotics flag.
In its original form –the VersaBot-Alpha– this platform was characterized by a simple design concept; a series of stackable chassis component modules based on a cylindrical form factor akin to that of the contemporary Rhoomba robot vacuums and many similar-looking hobbyist and experimenter robots. It was intended to be an easy and familiar platform for experimentation but capable of performing practical jobs by compartmentalizing systems into component modules that could be developed largely independently like the sub-components of any personal computer and combined in various ways to accommodate different designs and perform different tasks. The first generation of VersaBot is likely to have been a simple unit combining paired drive wheels and front and rear free-rolling bearing balls or omnidirectional wheels with a perimeter sensor array and a chassis size of about 50-60cm in diameter. This would later form the basis of the standard smooth-floor motive drive module.
Later, three basic forms of stackable modules would form the basis of most VersaBots; motive drive module, controller or CPU module, and sensor/actuator module. These would vary greatly in design according to function or the amount of on-board intelligence the robot needed save for the basic form-factor of the 50-60cm cylinder. They would stack in a fixed attachment mode or use an additional turn-table module that would allow two modules to rotate independently of one another. Building upon this basic architecture, an endless assortment of simple durable robots could be developed. These components would also be combined with those of [[Inchworms[[ and RoboTruck platforms, serving as tool and anchor modules for the former and controller/sensor/communications modules for the latter, thus establishing a common lineage for the three most important groups of robots developed throughout TMP.
By the time of full-scale Aquarian colonies, VersaBot technology would be well developed and likely marketed in products worldwide. On Aquarius colonies they would assume many roles, though are unlikely to compete with human beings in capability any time soon. Their role would be to perform the simpler more mundane tasks that may be difficult to obtain a workforce for with the modest populations and high vocational skill levels typical of colony society, or perform tasks in hazardous areas, particularly underwater, or to form the basis of some automated machine tools. Let’s look at some likely VersaBot forms;
Cleaners: Specialized in floor sweeping, floor washing/polishing, and wall/ceiling washing functions, these descendents of today’s cleaning robots would be some of the simplest and most numerous of the VersaBots. They would be more likely used for cleaning public interior areas rather than homes because of their size, though on Aquarius colonies the convenience of tool sharing services would make these more practical for some domestic uses. Typical units would be about about one or two meters high (the bulk of their volume based on collection canisters and fluid tanks) and employ a recessed wheeled motive drive system integrated with floor cleaning elements or an arm-mounted surface cleaning head. The robots would be taught by human operators but would share this programming across the Aquarian wireless networks, with central deployment programs maintaining archives of this programming and deploying cleaners in fleets via Personal Rapid Transit cab.
Messengers: Another application common to commercial computers, Messengers would be simple VersaBots equipped with a series of compartments or containers that allow the robot to serve as a messenger to carry small items and files between offices and buildings. On Aquarius colonies this task would normally be performaned by a much more efficient Personal Packet Transit system integrated with colony Personal Rapid Transit. However, off these colonies these Messengers would compete with similar robots sold for large corporate campuses, college campuses, and hospitals and would be designed to perform double-duty as security robots. In appearance, Messengers would be largely identical to Cleaners and about 2 meters in height. They would employ smooth floor motive drive units initially but eventually replace them with more advanced dynamic balance two-wheel drive untis offering them the ability to climb stairs, handle rougher floor surfaces or hardened bare ground, travel for longer distances in open street and sidewalk conditions, and move with conventional human walking speed.
Caddies: Simple in basic design and built-in intelligence but extremely versatile in function, Caddies would be VersaBots similar to Messengers but designed to support a large assortment of plug-in frames or containers. As their name implies, they would serve primarily as self-mobile carriers that follow a person around and respond to simple command much like robot caddies on a golf course. However, they could be used for a great variety of jobs based on the kind of container or frame used with them. They may function as self-mobile wheel-barrows, carts, or robotic pack-mules –a job also likely to be applied to early RoboTruck designs. Or they may function as self-mobile lighting or power units, large umbrellas and shades, video cameras, workstations, drink and food coolers, mini-bars and kitchenettes, vending machines, video display kiosks, and many other tasks. Different motive units would be used with these to support different terrain conditions or payload types. For instance, they might employ the drive units of Crab and Scarab type VersaBots to handle rough terrain or may feature deployable stabilizer legs as used with Inchworm anchor ‘feet’. They may even be used in groups to support the carrying of larger structures such as small/light buildings or platforms.
Technicians: Also sharing a form factor similar to the Cleaners and Messengers, Technicians would be VersaBots designed to perform various kinds of technical maintenance activity and would represent the most sophisticated of VersaBots with this simple columnar form factor. With motive drive module topped with a vertical lift module and multiple turn-table units, the Technician would feature several stacked actuator modules and storage compartments with independent rotation and a top-mounted high-durability stereo visual sensor unit. As sophisticated as these robots may become, they would generally be limited to tasks based on simple repairs and whole-component-module reaplcements in an indoor environment. However, they may also be adapted to work in an outdoor environment for tasks such as grounds maintenance and farming tasks, being accompanied by some more specialized robots such as self-mobile wheel-barrows and platform trucks or cultivators with all-terrain drives based on the RoboTruck platform.
CyberChairs: These would be VersaBot motive drive modules adapted to function as a platform for powered chairs serving the disabled or even functioning as a form of personal transportation. A very large variety of motive drive modules would be developed for VersaBots in order to accommodate many environments. Many of these would be suited to the needs of mobility assistance for the disabled, the dynamic balance two-wheel drive units in particular, owing to their stair-climbing ability and normal walking speeds. They may be equipped for varying amounts of stored power and even employ hybrid power plants for long-range travel. They may also feature powered and articulated lift systems that allow the user to lift to normal standing head-height or reach high shelves and this function may be further supplemented by deployable stabilzers which would allow the chair to assist users in and out of vehicles or beds. Being robotic, the CyberChair would also feature a high degree of built-in intelligence and would be able to respond to various user commands from a distance, employ automated collison avoidance, employ many forms of user interface, incorporate heaslth monitoring and life support equipment, incorporate many types of computer and communications systems, and deploy additional robotic actuators to provide more mobility aid.
Limpets: Relying on a special drive units based on mechanical adhesives, the low-profile Limpets would be a group of VersaBots intended to climb walls, traverse ceilings, and serve primarily as cleaning systems, mobile lighting units, security devices, or a unique form of anchor module for Inchworm robots.
Crabs and Scarabs: Similarly low-profile, Crab and Scarab VersaBots would be characterized by a radial array of legs which, in the Crab, end in rubberized feet or simple ‘hands’ or, in the Scarab, end in wheel/motor roller units with the legs functioning in a dual active/passive suspension mode. These robots would be intended for the most extreme all-terrain operation, the Crabs being slow but able to climb to some degree and the Scarabs able to walk on rough or slippery terrain but able travel at higher speeds and longer distances on smoother terrain or perform complex maneuvers while traveling at speed. These robots would be used primarily as field research robots and emergency service robots, being adapted to harsh environment –including underwater and space. Typical applications would include large area automated field survey such as meteorite collection, biological and mineralogical sampling, lunar and planetary exploration, and search and rescue activities such as bomb robots, police robots, victim search, and the like. These motive drive units would also be employed in some other types of robots, particularly the CyberChairs.
AquaBots: These VersaBots would employ the conventional cylindrical component module form factors in an unusual way. Most VersaBot designs would employ modules with vertical stacking with a motive drive unit as their foundation. Adapted with waterproof inner-enclosures and hydrostatic foam elements, AquaBot modules would be grouped horizontally and sometimes combined in parallel, creating robots of a horizontal tubular profile. Two basic types would be likely; a short length underwater utility robot akin to contemporary marine ROVs, with domed or open forward sensor arrays and sometimes adapted with a box-like space frame around the main body of the unit, and a long torpedo-like form used for long distance travel. The shorter utility robot form may often employ stereo vision and a variety of manipulators along with various equipment and instruments retrofit to their optional space frames. They would commonly be used in a teleoperated mode, often tethered. The longer form would tend to have its length dominated by power storage –often employing hybrid power plants– and a primary aft-mounted propulsion system along with specialized instrument packages specific to a particular science mission. They would be intended for autonomous operation over very long distances.
RoboCrane: Here a low profile set of VersaBot modules form the basis of a tool known as a RoboCrane –a variation of the concept of a Hexapod or Stewart Platform. Strung from a series of six overhead cables on stepper-motor winch units, the RoboCrane shuttle unit is used as a large-area high-precision positioning system that can be installed in any large space and with its shuttle unit hosting an assortment of different tools and manipulators as swappable modules. RoboCranes would be the standard cargo lift and field recovery system used with the Aquarian Airship and would also find use as a large area machine tool for construction applications, an indoor or large open area cargo handling system, a camera platform for sporting events, and as the basis of some robotic farming systems. More specialized RoboCrane systems are likely to be developed to a scale able to handle full-scale ISO containers but those based on the VersaBot component platform are more likely to be limited to smaller scale applications handling masses no more than a few hundred pounds.
FlyBot: As its name implies, this form of VersaBot would be intended for aireal operation, serving primarily as a remote camera and/or communications platform. The typical VersaBot modules would be adapted with light weight materials to function as a kind of simple ‘gondola’ for several types of propulsion systems; one a lenticular or spherical lighter-than-air hull system with dual axis electric fan thrusters, another based on four radial boom-mounted thrusters, another using a pair of counter-rotating fans, and one high altitude minimalist design using a single very long bladed fan driven by tip-mounted ram-jets. Motion and vibration compensating camera modules would be mounted on turntable modules under the main body of the robots. However, later digital radial and spherical camera systems may be devised that use purely software-based motion compensation and may eliminate the need for counter-rotating elements. Non-camera systems, such as some communications systems, may likewise not need counter-rotating or mechanically positioned elements.
Magic Mirrors: Actually a variation of Caddy VersaBots intended as video display kiosks, Magic Mirrors would be a simple form of telpresense remote intended primarily for use by AI personalities. Employing a pedestal-mounted video monitor ‘head’, a ‘full body’ portrait display, or a cylindrical volumetric display equipped with stereo vision systems and optional telerobotic manipulators like those of Technician robots, these VersaBots would be intended to allow an AI person –or in some cases an organic human being in a remote location– to operate and communicate within the Actual Environment while displaying a graphic avatar through which they can express themselves. Most likely initially created as the basis of entertainment robots that allow cartoon characters to interact directly with human beings, these may become a key means for the eventual nascent AI community to bridge the interaction gap with the organic human society outside of the use of shared Virtual Environments. Robot bodies that can satisfactorally emulate the organic life forms may be some time in coming relative to the emergance of AI. Accustomed to living in Virtual Environments where they have the ability to change their avatar forms as a means of expression, AI persons may always regard robotic bodies as cumbersome in the manner of a space suit. Though very simple in design, Magic Mirror robots would have an advantage over anthropomorphic robots in their ability to accommodate avatar expression and this may make them preferable for casual interaction with the organic human community despite their physical limitations when compared to anthropomorphic robots that many organic human beings consider intimidating or alien in appearance.
Valets: The single-most advanced form of VersaBot likely to be developed, Valets would be anthropomorphic robots that use a VersaBot motive drive and base module at the bottom and a somewhat minimalist ‘torso’ derived from an Inchworm technology based ‘spine’ topped with a stereo vision sensor head and two or more radial arms from a ‘shoulder’ that may feature a simple flat touch display. They would commonly be based on dynamic balance two-wheel motive drive units affording them a low stable center of gravity from battery mass and parity of human walking speed, sometimes with deployable secondary tractor ‘feet’ that assist in stability when handling heavy objects or rough terrain. They may also employ Crab and Scarab style motive units. Tool and cargo carriers would be attached to their base as well as points on their ‘spines’ and they may employ ‘clothing’ in the form of cloth sheathing over their spines and arms as as means to protect joints from dust and moisture. Employing the most sophisticated on-board intelligence as well as being operable in a tele-operated mode, Valets would serve the function of a personal assistant and, eventually, be used as utlity remotes for AI personalities.
Though futurists have often suggested such intelligent anthropomorphic robots would be a common feature in people’s lives in the future, it seems more likely that these kinds of robots may find rather limited use owing to their alien appearance and an initially rather high learning curve for their users despite their on-board intelligence –though this would likely change with the emergence of AI. Rather than being the universal servants commonly imagined, these may likely find more specialized use as assistants for the disabled and elderly, unusual executive assistants based on their extensive wirless networking, medical assistants based on their dexterity, battlefield rescue of fallen soldiers, occasional hazardous environment activity, and entertainment robotics. Though versatile, they would tend to be much less physically robust and function-adapted and thus less efficient than more specialized forms of robots –much like human beings who are great generalists but cannot usually compete with specialized industrial machines. They would likely see extensive customization by their owners for both aesthetic and functional reasons –this minimalist design actually intended to facilitate this. Valet design would also be a precursor for space-based Remote design and may eventually evolve into fully anthropomorphic leg-propelled robots based on a rigid torso primary system module –though for a long time the dynamic balance two-wheel drive system may prove the more practical general purpose motive system,
As we can see, there is great potential in this very simple robotics architecture. We see here a path of evolution from some of todays most simple forms of hobbyist and utility robots to what may be one of the most advanced forms of robots ever produced prior to the nanotechnology era.
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- Sea Towers
- Aquarian Digital Infrastructure
- Cold Water Radiant Cooling
- Large Area Cast Acrylic Structures
- Polyspecies Mariculture
- Free-Range Fish Farming
- Terra Preta
- Cold-Bed Agriculture
- Small Space Animal Husbandry
- Tidal/Wave/Current Systems
- Algae-Based Biofuel Systems
- Vanadium Redox Systems
- Hydride Storage Systems
- Next-Generation Hydrogen Storage
- Alternative Hydrolizer Systems
- Supercritical Water Oxidation
- Plasma Waste Conversion