Davey Jose is a global macro strategist based in London, England, who, after researching robotics and automation for his work last year, made it a personal goal to find ways to assist people with mobility impairments through low-cost robotics. What makes this story stand out from some of the amazing similarly geared projects out there is that Davey, himself, is mobility impaired, limited to the use of his right arm.
We first became acquainted with Davey at the opening of the iMakr 3D printing store in London, earlier this year. Amazed by his ambitions for applying 3D printing, Solidoodle sent over an SD3 3D printer and materials through Solidoodle’s Imagine It charitable foundation. Davey just recently got started using his SD3 and we’re excited to see his progress.
Davey was great to answer some questions for us to share. Check out the Q&A below and pics of his project in progress at the end of the post.
Q: What is your technical/professional background for building robotics? I see your educational background in mathematics and computer science from your project blog page.
A: Yes, that’s right – my educational background is in mathematics and computer science (at Trinity College, University of Cambridge). I spend my working week on a global macro strategies desk — my primary focus is technology and how it is changing everything, including manufacturing via automation and more cool things. This is where my interest in 3D printing and robotics was piqued. You can read my personal views and thoughts on automation, robotics and its impact on society at http://microbytes.tumblr.com.
Q: How familiar are you with 3D printing and 3D modeling? Is this your first 3D printing project?
A: I have experimented (lightly) with tools like Blender, Maya and 3ds Max previously — however, this is my first proper 3D printing and modelling project.
Q: What’s the end goal?
A: My end goal is to create low-cost enabling robotics via the Solidoodle 3D printer. The initial aim is to improve the quality of my life though robotics ― this is my primary motivator…The next aim would be to try get the robotics experiments into a form that can help other disabled people out there.
Q: What is your story? How does tech fit in?
A: At the age of three, I was run over by a car…This accident led to my spinal cord being injured at the level C1 (in my neck). Luckily, the spinal injury was incomplete, and I regained the use of my right arm. After years of physio and rehab, I was able to do certain things for myself but still require a significant amount of assistance from family and helpers over the years.
Technology in the 21st century allows me to communicate, shop, read, watch and listen to anything from anywhere. This wasn’t possible when I was growing up as a kid. When I wanted to gain some knowledge, I had to ask someone to go and fetch a book for me. If I wanted to speak to a friend on the phone, I had to ask someone to pass me the landline. When I wanted to watch TV or a video, I had to ask someone to go and turn it on and put in the cassette. If I wanted to buy something, I had to ask someone to go shopping for me. The technology of the Internet in the last decade changed all that. When on the move, I can do all those activities from my wheelchair using the smartphone. When I’m at home, I don’t use my wheelchair; instead, I sit on the floor. Being seated in my wheelchair requires me to wear a custom-made orthotic body suit (yes a bit like in Iron Man but without the colour and jet pack!). It is designed to support my weak neck and correct my posture. Without the body suit, I would not be able to function outdoors. It would be impossible to go to work or anywhere else. I’m forced to endure the pain from wearing the body suit in order to be functional on the outside world…Even with no mobility in a home environment, I’m able to use mobile/tablet/desktop computing to access anything I need, anytime.
The digital world gives me independence — however, we still live in a physical world. Now imagine: A chilly winter’s evening at home in London. I have a cold but the box of tissues and Strepsils (UK sore throat remedy!) is in another room. I can’t reach my Kindle Paperwhite — I think my brother borrowed it and left it in the living room yesterday. My USB stick sits on top of the table staring back at me, out of reach. My cup of orange juice sits in the kitchen, whilst I grow thirsty. I fancy a midnight snack but my digestive biscuits are in the living room. Right now, the only way I can get any of those things is by asking someone who is at home — usually by yelling as loud as I can! If I’m lucky, someone will hear me over the TV, YouTube, music or their conversations. The midnight snack? I would have to wake up whoever is staying over. Unless scientists find a cure for spinal injuries, I will have to rely on other people forever. Digital world — full independence. Physical world — no independence… ever?
Never say never. If we have been living through the information age via the evolution of the Internet and portable devices over the last decade, I strongly believe that we are about to enter the age of automation. (I write at more length on my technology-related views and specifically automation on my blog, http://microbytes.tumblr.com/post/36882594490/the-age-of-automation)
The age of automation will have a massive impact on society as a whole over the coming decades. Why is the age of automation important to me personally right now? I believe that technology, 3D printing, robotics and thus automation is hitting an inflection point in terms of capability and mass use. I believe this technology can be used to improve my quality of life and enable me to be more independent at home.
Q: What’s the evolution of this project? I know you built a mobile base you control with your phone already.
A: Initially, I converted all my lights and a few of my plug sockets to be controlled by my mobile phone. All were low-cost, off-the-shelf solutions that, a few years ago, would have cost a lot of money and been complex to install. Then, I thought about robotics more and realised there were two parts of the robotics project. The first was a mobile base. So over the last 8 months, I was able to put together a mobile base and get it remotely operated through my mobile phone. Currently, I use it to bring me medicine and other small snacks (imagine a shelf on wheels that moves!). However, simply having a mobile base is not sufficient. You can’t put everything on moving wheels. To have further independencen you need a robotic arm. For example: to lift a cup and put it onto the mobile base. I realised all the robotic solutions were of a very high cost and didn’t do everything I wanted them to do. That is where a 3D printer like the Solidoodle comes into play!
Q: What challenges do you foresee on your new project?
A: The project I’m embarking on is to create tele-operated robotics to be my new arm and help me fetch things for me from places in the home that I can’t reach without help. I understand there are a lot of problems to be solved. Everything from carrying payload weight to developing the grabbing arm (and more!). There are a lot of very cool and amazing open-source 3D projects online and so I hope to learn from the their lessons and tailor together a solution appropriate for my situation. Here is a post t I did the maker revolution (http://microbytes.tumblr.com/post/49437084416/the-magical-maker-revolution). A 3D printer is going to allow me to start realising and prototyping a robot arm. I believe the end result will have incredible independence-enabling possibilities.
Q. What resources are you using? Do you have phases planned to achieve it?
A: Currently, I’m in the process of streamlining the printing process, testing different slicers and analysing the level of accuracy of the output. I’m spending all my free time after the working day and most weekends on this project. I expect this testing phase to continue a few more weeks whilst I learn more about the SD3 and how best to utilise it for this project.
The next stage will be to start experimenting with the open-source prosthetic arm models out there and test the accuracy of the output and joints fitting. The accuracy of the prints will matter as there will most likely be a lot of interlocking components on the 3D-printed robotic arm. After that, I will return to modelling and creating new models based on my experiments with the SD3 — this is where the real super-fun and creative process will begin!
Once I start printing my own tailor-made designs, I will have to start thinking about servos, actuators and about how to wire up it all up. Then will come in the software to control the actuators and remotely control the 3d printed robotic arm.
Q: Are you also developing a mobile attachment to use the robotic arm with your wheelchair? I see you’re also 3D modeling of your orthotic brace.
A: I also recently started using 3D scanning (using Kinect and mobile phone) to capture real physical data. At the moment, I’m trying to capture the plastic orthotic body suit I wear for my neck/back support. The idea is that I will be able to create 3D models for various adaptations and embed robotics inside it – a precursor technology that will go into the to the robotic arm. All this will be possible because of the SD3! It was actually an idea I had after I received the SD3 and realised how powerful this tool is and that much more will be possible in the realm of personal enabling robotics.
Q: Do you have any additional needs beyond 3D printing tools for this project? Any collaborators? Are you interested in having some.
A: Robotics needs a wide range of skills. The 3D printer will be the main conduit that transforms ideas into physical things. I will then need powerful servos to embed into the 3D-printed robotics, so that it can carry sufficient payloads to be useful. For example, think of lifting the weight of a cup with liquid or force required to open a fridge. Then will need to write software to operate the robotic arm remotely, ideally controlled through the mobile phone. I’m always open to having collaborators and support, so anyone with background in working with actuators, electronics and control software is especially welcome!
Q: Anything else you’d like to add for our readers?
A: I shall also be updating this little blog (www.c1robotics.com) on my adventures in using low cost robotics and automation in my everyday life — including the Solidoodle 3D-printed robotic arm experiments!
If you’re interested in becoming involved in Davey’s project, feel free to reach him through the contact page on his microbytes blog or send a message to yahea at solidoodle dot com and we’ll be glad to pass your message along.