Time for a new sticky. This is a new introduction for the blog to try to restate the goals and give a little progress report of the last years work.
First, the ultimate goal is the facilitation of the fulfillment of a dream that mankind has had since before we could write things down. I'm talking about gaining the ability to fly like a bird. That phrase is key, like a bird.
It is my opinion based in personal experience and a growing knowledge of current technology, that it is possible right now to reverse engineer the structure and function of large birds in order to create a man carrying craft that has all of the flight capability of a large soaring bird and that is controlled by a pilot in ways that mimic the control and precision of those birds.
Simply put, I'm proposing the construction of a wearable winged exoskeleton. In the posts of this blog, you will find articles describing the kinds of technology, in prosthetics, man magnifier exoskeletons, computer capabilities, materials and power systems that can be adapted to create what I call for lack of a better name, the Man Bird™.
The past year has been a process of searching and stumbling around the internet to find applicable ideas. It has been fruitful beyond my wildest expectations. I have met on line some like minded individuals who are on similar missions. You can find links to them in the articles here. Everything I have found to date has served to convince me beyond doubt that this goal can and will be achieved.
The main hold up is financial. If any of the lottery tickets I have purchased pay off, the Man Bird will happen very soon. But the technologies I have discussed are cutting edge in many cases and therefore expensive. Also, while I have a science and technical background, I don't have the level of engineering skill to build what I think is necessary. However engineers can be hired and put to work doing the needed design and development.
That being the case, it will be necessary to put together some investment. Selling such an outside of the box idea is not going to be easy. My first step was creating this blog. With it I wanted to get some dialog going and focus discussion on my own conception of what the goal should be. The next step was as I said, exploring the internet for useable information and contacts.
The thing I realized was that I needed something I could use to illustrate the concept as clearly as possible. I needed something that would distinguish my idea from all the other similar ones out there. There are quite a few people working on their own in their attempts to design and construct 'ornithopters'. Unfortunately, I have seen so far, nothing that captures the essence of my concept or in fact that I have any confidence in (I could be entirely wrong, but that is to be seen).
How to build the Man Bird without actually building it? Obviously if I already had a prototype, I could use that to get attention and investors. The answer is to build a 'virtual' Man Bird. One of the first things I discovered while searching the net, was the incredible world of 3D Computer Graphics. There are artists using software packages that are creating anything their minds eye can see. The results are stunning. They can produce photo-realistic images of things that never existed, but that you can't tell aren't real.
Most of these high end software packages are pricy but there is one called Blender that is free and open source. The work that people are doing with it is as good as what you'll see out of Hollywood or the best computer games. I was looking at what some of them have done illustrating birds and birds in flight and the thought occurred to me, why not? So I posted a question on the forum dedicated to Blender Artists and I got a fantastic response.
Arindam Mondal is an artist from Bangalore India who uses Blender in his work. He was able to see the potential of the Man Bird and offered his services. We have been collaborating across the globe on the design for the Virtual Man Bird.
Now Blender can animate the 3D objects that are created in it. It can produce whole movies Hollywood style. This alone would be very cool, but Blender can also take input in real time as in gaming so that the created objects and creatures can respond to things like keystrokes and joysticks. In fact, through a programming language called Python, data from any sensor or device can be turned into movement in 3D.
That's where I come in. I was a professional software engineer for 25 years with a background in electronics. I am developing with the help of John Patillo a wearable sensor array of Inertial Measurement Units (IMU) that will measure the position and movement of parts of my body and transmit that data to Blender where it will be used to control the Virtual Man Bird in real time.
The ultimate real Man Bird will have a control system that takes input from the pilot in several ways. Arms that are wired with sensors can provide movement control data so that the wings can follow those moves. Arms flap, wings flap. Arms change configuration, wings match. Other body parts such as hips and legs will be matched with analogous parts of the machine. I haven't talked about the details of the real Man Bird because that's for later.
So, the first major goal of the project. Now here is how I imagine using the Virtual Man Bird. Wired with the IMU sensor array, I walk out on a stage in front of one or two large screen projection screens. On them is the Blender generated Man Bird that responds in real time to my movements. In my wildest versions, I am tethered Spiderman the Musical style so that I can lift off the stage when I flap the virtual wings and appear to fly around.
The rest of the presentation will be a display of the various technologies and commentary on how they can be put together to create the real Man Bird. Every thing from Animations of the Man Bird in flight with birds and hang gliders to current work in prosthetics and military robotic exoskeletons could be flashed up on screen.
That kind of presentation in venues like TED and the annual Blender users conference should convince some people to invest in the creation of the real Man Bird.
Then on to the main goal.