Thinking Outside the Box: The Importance of Interstitials, Intersections, and Peripherals

     Part of my motivation for this work is designing a robot system that maximizes usefulness. This comes from a childhood (and adult) frustration of robots being not much more than mostly useless toys and curiosities, or things so specialized as to not be considered a robots anymore, such laser printers. General purpose robots have usually been unimaginable our out of reach. This chapter is exciting to me because it discusses many of the possible extras, attachments, improvements to a basic RASA frame work and how the will most likely work.

     The RASA framework itself is extremely simple, as it’s just a basic scaffolding structure, built to allow motorized boxes to drive around inside of it.

Travel Path: The path that the motorized boxes take through the framework is the main part of what makes RASA work.

Intersection: An intersection is where something blocks the motorized box’s travel path.

Interstitial: This is everything else that’s not a travel path. This is the scaffolding structure that holds everything up, and the empty spaces between the travel paths.

Peripheral: This is anything outside the whole system.

      Designing a system totally reliant on boxes moving around can solve a lot of problems, but let’s face it, it doesn’t make sense for some things. Electricity for one, lends itself to being wired. Fluids travel well through pipes. Batteries and tanks also work, and fit well in boxes, but it’s not always the best or cheapest solution, so the system needs flexibility to handle much more than boxes.

     So, how to add piping or wiring (or anything else) extra to this system? One way is to run it around the outside of the system (the periphery). Having wires, pipes, charging systems, or what not, all on the edge, where the boxes can access what they need, makes a lot of sense.

      If we put stuff inside the system, it will intersect with a box’s travel path, so that part of the scaffolding will be inaccessible to the automatic systems. In some cases, this is necessary, and that’s ok. The other option is to put things around the travel path, so that the boxes aren’t blocked. This is probably the best way, because everything can coexist.

      Since the goal is full automation, the ideal way of mounting system services such as cabling, piping, or gadgets attached like lights, sensors, or charging stations, is to let the machines do the work. I imagine the best idea would be a wiring bot, mounted inside one of the motorized boxes. This machine would string pieces of wiring throughout the system and attach it to the framework, allowing the system as a hole to wire itself for whatever it needs. Developing automated wiring and plumbing standards for RASA would give it an entirely new level of self sufficiency and usefulness.

     When designing a RASA implementation, it’s good to give the interstitial space between the travel paths some thought. The minimalist approach would be to make the structure as small as possible, but then future needs of cabling and piping might be hampered, so in my design I have left a few inches of space between travel paths and structure, to allow for any future things that might be needed. In the illustration below, I have drawn two RASA systems, one which has the bare minimum space between travel paths, and a second one that is designed with some extra interstitial space for anything that might need to fit in between.  This leaves a lot of room for future innovation.

RASA

RASA with Interstitials

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