Tom Jenner (Roboanalogtom)

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[edit] Thomas W. Jenner Jr.

The approach to building analog robots used by Tom Jenner (AKA roboanalogtom) is very different from that used by the typical BEAMer. For one thing, whereas the control circuits used by BEAMers are usually chip based (at least for those robots that are more than simple solarollers), Tom uses transistor based circuits to create what he calls a "Synthetic Nervous System" for his Robots". For another thing, he relies on continuously variable sine waves, rather than the square pulses produced by typical BEAM circuits.

According to Tom...

"My CPG uses sine waves oscillators that can be variably modulated in frequency, amplitude, phase and DC offset. This allows for very smooth, dynamic and life like robots. You can spin the servo shaft at any speed with this approach." (From the BEAM email list message #49012)

The way that Tom implements his Synthetic Nervous System can rightfully be described as being both retro and (to use Tom's term) "new school".

Retro in the sense that most, if not all, of the basic circuits Tom uses have, as Wilf once pointed out, "existed since the vacuum tube days".

"New school" in how Tom employs these circuits in the control of robot locomotion. As Wilf wrote in the BEAM list message #52876 that Tom's...

"major contribution has been in applying information theory and thermodynamics to describe the operation and applications of a series of elegant beamish circuit designs which are not necessarily unique but which, in that process, have acquired new meaning and new potential."

Wilf further noted that Tom's...

"use of smooth (sine) waveforms for control and his exploitation of the linear phase space of analog computational circuits has led me to re-evaluate my ideas about the information content of fast transitions in pulse circuits. Those discontinuous waveforms pack so much energy in switching transients so that they are dominant attractors for all processes in the linear region, masking all kinds of interesting subtle effects."

[edit] What's in a Name

In a post to the BEAM email list on May 8, 2005, J Wolfgang Goerlich asked Tom what he prefer his circuits to be called. After a short flirtation with idea of using the acronym "NEST" for "NEw School Technologies", Tom quickly decided it would be too egocentric, and announced that he would instead prefer to go with "OISM", an acronym for Oscillating Infinite State Machines, which comes from a description he used in his patent application.

[edit] Worth a Read

Tom wrote an article titled: "A Synthetic Nervous System for Robotic Locomotion", which was published in the July 2004 issue Servo Magazine. In this article Tom explains his approach and introduces some of his circuits while describing a "34 transistor photo walker.

[edit] Tom's Patent Applications

8 Transistor 2 Servo Photo Walker - Figure 12Eleventh page of Tom's  Patent Application
8 Transistor 2 Servo Photo Walker - Figure 12
Eleventh page of Tom's Patent Application

[edit] Synthetic Nervous System for Robotics

Tom has filed two patent applications to protect the fruit of his of his work with these circuits. Fortunately he has graciously granted BEAMers and other hobbyist permission to use what he has developed for NON-COMMERCIAL purposes only.

The patent of most interest to BEAMers would probably be the one for his Synthetic Nervous System for Robotics - Provisional Application #60/539,822 - filed January 27, 2004, - Published on December 13, 2007.

The abstract from this patent application reads as follows:

"A synthetic nervous system capable of rudimental learning and self-organization for robotic applications having a control circuit and servo actuators to mimic natural bio-neural processes. Simple oscillators capable of being modulated in frequency, phase, amplitude and DC offset act as analog processing elements or oscillating infinite state machines. A central pattern generator utilizing periodic, quasi-periodic, or chaotic oscillators or phase shifters, or a combination thereof, along with a basic motor neuron circuit enables multiple servos to coordinate their behavior to enable bio-inspired locomotion such as walking, swimming, flapping, crawling, and the like. Sensors interfaced to the control circuit provide a wide range of adaptive behavior such as following a light source, avoiding an obstacle, and shifting balance point. Overlapping or concurrent sensor inputs can provide complex behavior with minimal circuitry."

Gripper Mechanism - Figure 2 Third page of Tom's Patent Application
Gripper Mechanism - Figure 2
Third page of Tom's Patent Application

[edit] Gripper Device and Method

BEAMers wanting to give a robot the ability to grab and hold onto things might be interested in Tom's other patent application titled: Gripper Device and Method - Provisional Application #60/509,452 - Filed on Oct 8, 2003 - Published on November 29, 2007. Although designed as an aid for someone with limited use of his or her hand, this gripper mechanism is simple enough to be easily adapted for use on a robot.

The abstract from this one reads:

"A device designed to assist individuals who have limited use of their hands, the device including a motor-controlled clamp for gripping objects, a microprocessor coupled to the motor-controlled clamp for actuating the motor, an input transducer coupled to the controller to receive input commands from the user to initiate action by the motor-controlled clamp to selectively grip and release an object, and a base for removably attaching the device to the limb of a user, either via straps or to a cast or brace using fasteners."

[edit] Tom's Contributions to BEAM Robotics

[edit] External References

[edit] Tom Jenner's YouTube Videos

[edit] Tom's Other Interests

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