Watch the video of Usman Haque’s talk at TEDxExeter 2016.
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Videos about Design
Live blogs about Design
Joel got into robots because he thought they were cool. His first robot was Clean3PO, which stumbled around his parents’ kitchen.
His favourite robots are those that are inspired by nature, which to many people are creepy. [I’m not going to look up at the video of an 8-legged overly-realistic robot.]
The most natural movement is in the human hand. Each hand has 29 bones, 34 muscles and 123 ligaments. Is it possible to replicate this robotically without necessarily replicating all these intricacies?
Joel built his first effort from stuff he found around the home, but he still managed to get some realistic movement.
When he studied robotics at university, he found that the options for amputees needing a prosthetic was limited, in terms of cost and functionality. He realised that what he was doing could change people’s lives. He wanted to get the latest technology to amputees at an affordable price.
His next hand was sheet aluminium, and chopped up rubber gloves for a nice touch. This attracted a lot of interest, so he made the design open source.
After a stint at an engineering company, he returned to the project and investigated the potential of 3D printing. He quit his job, bought a 3D printer, and moved back in with his parents(!) He could see the potential of 3D printing for both cheap and tailored production. His design uses free software all the way. His latest model can cope with being knocked about, and has smooth and natural movement. The video looks great, but the model he has on stage only has 2 working fingers. The leading prosthetic costs $18K. He plans to sell his for only $1K. For growing children, he can reprint only the parts that need to be replaced over time. Kids’ hands can be customised to look cool instead of awkward.
Joel has found his only limitation has been in his ambition. The next time you use your hands to do something, taken a moment to think about the complex intricacies. Technology has the power to mimic this freedom, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.
Here’s a Vine of “Dextrus hand closing and opening. Except for the pinky finger!” If you can’t view the embedded film, it’s available here.
It’s July 2010, and Jo is sat in the Pacific on Plastiki, a boat built out of plastic bottles. As skipper she is responsible for the lives of 5 boys, and wondering whether they’d bitten off too much.
She is showing a video of the sea state – “big wave!” – and I’m feeling queasy just watching… and in awe of the seas, and of Jo and the crew for risking them.
Her dad left her in a dinghy at aged 7, and started a life-long love affair with the seas. Her journey towards Plastiki started on South Georgia. She took a moment by herself on the beach – it was stunningly beautiful, but then she saw the bright oranges, blues and greens of plastic.
Ever since she’s been questioning how the materials we produce and use daily impact the life of the sea. Plastic is the first man-made material that can’t be found in nature. And now we have pumped 8 billion tonnes into the sea, and nearly all of it is still there today – our geological legacy.
There are 11 gyres in the oceans, caused by currents and winds. And vast quantities of plastic can be found in the middle of these gyres. Sea birds choke on it, turtles are trapped in it. Tiny pieces of plastic sop up toxins, which get into the food chain.
We should stop thinking of plastic as throw-away, as it is almost, like diamonds, forever. We should consider the whole lifecycle of a material or product before we manufacture it.
Jo and the others in the Plastiki team thought that if they could build an up-cycled boat and sail it across the Pacific, then they could demonstrate other possibilities. The team collected 12,000 bottles from recycling centres to form the buoyancy. They also found SRPT, which could be used to bond the bottles together. It retains its properties in the reycling process, so could be used again to build another boat or a plane. It hadn’t been used before, so it was a big risk to sail out under the Golden Gate Bridge heading for Sydney.
The crew learnt a lot about the material: saw it expand and contract in the sun, and twist and reform in the waves. Plastiki was the first boat to be made of closed-loop plastic, and the project led to other inventions.
Jo has learnt to appreciate plastic’s material qualities. It’s our misunderstanding of the material that has led to the problems. Someone needs to take ownership. Big companies and curious minds need to get together to work out how to build closed-loop everyday products too.
Jo on Twitter