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Tech Industry: CNET's Sharon Vaknin slays the Mondo Robot spider

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Tech Industry: CNET's Sharon Vaknin slays the Mondo Robot spider

10:50 /

At CES 2013 in Las Vegas, CNET's Sharon Vaknin checks out EatArt's 50-foot mechanical snake and takes the reins on the Mondo robotic spider.

-Hey guys, we are here in the Central Plaza of CES just outside the CNET booth in a very large space so that we can take a look at a 50-foot snake and a Mondo spider. We'll get to that later, but first I'm here with one of the creators of eatArt. So, Charlie, tell me what we're looking at right now. -So, this is Titanoboa. It's a 50-foot long electromechanical snake and it's actually a recreation of an ancient dinosaur snake that used to exist 69 years ago. -What-- Why-- Why an ancient dinosaur snake? -Well, the idea was that the ancient snake went extinct because the climate cool down, so now in the phase of modern climate change we're resurrecting this piece just kind of like a vehicle to generate discussions about energy issues. -Okay, so you guys are trying to make a statement with this 50-foot long mechanical, okay, just tell me how this works. -Yeah, like it was-- So, this is a project that kind of blends a whole bunch of different disciplines in engineering with arts, so that's kind of our target as we're gonna try to get people excited about engineering and technology using crazy mechanical sculpture. -But how it is built? It looks like a spinal cord to me. -Yeah. So, what you see is a 20-custom welded aluminum vertebrae and between all the vertebrae you've got cylinders that are kind of like the muscles of the snake -Okay. -and they work with hydraulic fluid. It's kind of like the blood that comes through the snake. -Okay. -So, you said it's 50 feet, but I noticed that there is a tail sitting over there in the corner, so what happen to the tail? -Yeah, so we just took the tail off temporarily as we're getting setup here and we're getting rolling 'cause sometimes it tends to whip around and have a bit of a mind of its own, so-- -Have there been any injuries so far? -No. Usually, we try and put ourselves between the snake and whatever else while it's operating so that we can-- if anybody is gonna get damaged just gonna be us. -Okay, good 'cause I don't wanna get damaged. So, this thing is 1200 pounds and I'm really excited to see you go and I know all of you guys are excited to see it, so let's make this thing happen. -Okay. -Okay. -So-- -Everyone signed liability releases. Oh, my God. Okay, this is insane. I cannot believe how smoothly this thing. It's just making its way through the parking lot. Charlie, don't get hit. Okay, so now I see why the tail was taken out because I don't think that we could handle it. -So, yeah, genius over there is operating this titanoboa wirelessly with his remote controller. -So, he has the most awesome job right now. -Yeah, he is the snake charmer. He's the perfect driver for this machine, and he's communicating with one of the several brains along this line of the snake. They're all working in tandem to coordinate the movement. -Okay, how long did it take you guys-Okay, I heard you brought this to Burning Man, right? -We did. So, we are nonprofit organization called eatArt. It is funded-- These products are all funded by grants from organizations like Burning Man and sponsorships from companies like Lenovo who brought us here for this event so-- -So, tell me how the heck you guys manage to keep this thing functioning when you're at Burning Man and we all know it's adjustable where things are just flying, you can't breath, so how the heck these things survived? -It was pretty rugged like we had a lot of technical difficulties at first year and, you know, dusts contaminating connections and things-- but we're gonna take it back and hopefully this year with a lot more of robust setup and we'll be able to do different kinds of motion and hopefully I have a better time of it. -Okay, so I heard that you guys can actually monitor the diagnostics. I don't know if it's for the snake or for the spider via your smartphone. -Yeah. -Is that true? -So, what we've got here -Okay. -is this like-- -Let's show the people. -like its-- it's on a tablet and we've got all the kind of voltages, battery levels, motorspeed, pressure and all the sensor values, so we can see what's going on via wi-fi from the snake as it's running, so we've got working on like phones and tablets and stuff. It's just a preliminary version of this app, but yeah, it's-- -So, it's an app. Can I download it? Can I monitor it while I'm at home wondering how my snake is doing? -If you want to. I think you have to be close enough to get the wi-fi signal that's coming on the snake's head, but you know-- -Okay. Okay, so from my hotel room across the street. -Yeah, probably. -Okay, now-- Now, I wanna talk about the spider. -Yeah. We'll go-- -So, let's-- -You wanna go over there and-- -Yeah, let's do that. Okay, guys we're moving on to the Mondo spider, all right. So you-- So, first of all, did you actually get your hands dirty? Did you build this thing? -Yeah, so-- this is-- Titanoboa was originally my idea and then I brought more people on board on the team and as we got more and more into it, I transitioned from doing like welding and the dirty stuff or more so it's just kind of being the project organizer. -Okay. -Because there was about 15 or 20 people working on the same, all volunteers in the evenings and stuff so-- -Okay, so you bringing up the word volunteers, kind of makes me wanna ask. -Yeah. -Is this what you do full time? Is this lucrative? How do you guy or you guys like all living in one bedroom, in building things by night? -Well, you know, we all have our day jobs. We're engineers. Some of us are students, artists, and technicians and we just-- we all like to share this kind of common interest of making these crazy machines and we do it in our spare time and-- and yeah, so it's-- -We're you expecting it to be such a hit? -No. When we first-- When we first started with this with this spider, we just-- we're kind of driven by this desire to make something really cool and then once we had built it, it became clear that-- that desire was kind of we [unk]. I mean, that was actually valuable and could be enjoyed by lots of other people. -Okay, because I'm ready to enjoy those things, the great thing about the spider is that it's actually operated by a person sitting in it and today that person is going to be me. -So-- -So, oh yes. -Maybe like John can explain how the spider works. -So, thank you so much. -Yeah. -So, I have John and Ryan with me. So tell me about how the spider works. -The spider is a big magnificent piece of clockwork. -Yeah, it's very-- -I'm sure a lot of work. -Yeah, it's very easy to operate as long as you're properly trained, so-- -I'm sorry, real quick? I am not properly trained. -Well, let's hopefully we can get-- you have to be in properly trained in the next couple of seconds. -Oh, perfect. -So, the first thing you have to do is for you how to get in. -Okay. -And then we'll show you the controls -Okay. -and some of the emergency safety maneuvers. -But before I go in, I'm just kind of curious as to how these works? I'm not an engineer so-- -Okay. -pretend that. -Well, it's actually a totally closed-loop zero emissions machine, so we have a mobile-- -Now that makes complete sense to me. -You know, one of those so-- -It's okay. -We have a mobile solar ray, which charges a set of lithium-iron-phosphate batteries like you might see in electric car. -Okay. -And then the batteries run electric motors. The motors run hydraulic pumps. The pumps run hydraulic motors. -Where are the solar panels? -The solar panels are back in Vancouver. -Oh so it's already been charged up. -Yeah. Yeah. It's charged and ready to go. -And where are the batteries? -The batteries are up in the front next to where the operator seats -Okay. -on either side. -Okay. -And then the batteries run the electric motors, which are in the back under that glass dome. -Wow. -And those electric motors are running hydraulic pumps and those hydraulic pumps are running hydraulic motors. -Okay. -And those hydraulic motors as Ryan is demonstrating, run the chains and it's just clockwork from after that basically. -Where do you guys get the parts for this kind of stuff, for this kind of structure? -Well, most of the structure was custom engineered by us. We designed all of the chassis and the legs from scratch, but a lot of common components like bearings, chains, rockets, hydraulic components, they came from a farm equipment supply store in Vancouver. -Are you guys going to reprod-- like can I eventually have one of these in my home? -Well, the Mondo spider is a one piece of art, but as with so many creative endeavors, there's always a market opportunity if somebody wanted to start Mondo spider mass production facility. We certainly know where to find the-- -Or a mini Mondo spider. I would love a mini Mondo spider. -We've actually toyed with the idea of making Mondo spider toys, a little radar controlled ones. -Oh my gosh! -Yeah. -I need one of those. Actually, I need to ride this thing. -All right, well, it's quite straightforward. -Okay. -What we have here is the big red button as we call it. This is what activates-- -Nothing will explode, right? -No. -I just want to know that now. -No, this is the eject button. Don't push that one. -Okay. -The big red button turns it on and off. -Okay. -So, right now, it's off. -Okay. -And if you ever see me doing this or this-- -Okay. -just hit the big red button -Got it. -and the machine will shut down and nothing else will go wrong. -Okay, sweet. -So, I'm gonna un-push the big red button. -Okay. -So, the machine is now-- -Oh, [unk] That's off? -That's good. -Okay, good. -Yeah. Yeah. -Okay. -You got it and then a little bit of that. -Okay, good. -Okay. -Okay. -So the machine is now active. I'm not gonna stand here 'cause that's where the lights go. -Okay. -This is the safety zone. I'm gonna turn out the motors to crawling level. -Can you guys hear that? This is awesome. -The electric power is ready. So, the pumps are now active. If you push on these levers, it will make the legs start moving. -Okay. -And it's just like a tank. You push them both forward, the machine goes forward. You pull them both back, you go through the Lenovo 10. -Okay. -Sweet. -Move them in opposite directions and -Okay. -you turn on the spot. -Okay. -You need to go out of my way 'cause I'm ready for this thing. -All right, always keep one eye on me in case I have to stop you. -I'm on spider. I'm on spider. I'm a spiderwoman. Okay. Let's get ride. Let's get ride. Okay, out of my way cameras.

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