Turning Waste Into Wealth – Eco- Artistic Robots


Turning Waste Into Wealth – Eco- Artistic Robots

Do you believe that a Malaysian creative industry player has built a robot by merely using waste materials? Lim Nam Aik of ArtLinks uses recyclable materials which are essentially available free of charge to build a robot which has generated income for him each time he rents out the robot ( see attached video ) to event organisers who use it to attract audience.

He has used his skills in art to create and build a unique robot with commercial appeal. While many view robots as sophisticated hi-tech creatures, his approach focuses on the form, the shape or the design as he believes the artistic appeal can be more inspiring to attract public interest in robotics.

By encouraging the use of recyclable materials which are easily and abundantly available, his approach has also helped to bring awareness on environment issues, besides making building robots an affordable activity. According to him, this, in turn, will contribute to the growth of a culture in development of robots and growth of robotics in Malaysia,.

It must be a delight to the students and the general public that Mr Lim is willing to teach and transfer his skills to those who are interested in learning how to turn ‘Waste’ into ’Works-of-Art’.

The above story shows that innovation can be the key to our success by adding value to what we have. It also demonstrates that robotics has indeed captured the imagination of Malaysians. In recent times, there have been numerous robotics competitions in the country. This has contributed to the formation of various interest groups in robotics. One such group is the Malaysia Robotics & Automation Society (MyRAS) which was founded in the year  2010.

According to its President, Dr. Ishkandar Bin Baharin, MyRAS aims to push for the advancement of robotics and automation technology in Malaysia to establish its foothold across different clusters including the government, industry, academic and public. MyRAS currently organizes seminars and meetings for its members to share and learn about robotics from local as well as international experts.

Robotic Touch: Can Robots be made to have Tactile Sensing

Most of us would be able to reach into a bag to find a key, even without looking into the bag. Can a robot do the same? Scientists and  technologists are developing such robots. However, for a robot, the same task is extremely complex. In addition to the ability to search and take out the key, the robot needs to know what tactile sensing (e.g. the feeling of touching a key) means in terms of a computer’s expression and analysis (i.e. numbers and equations).

Intelligent machines or robots are developed because they often perform a task more efficiently than humans and they carry out tasks that are difficult for us to perform. They have been widely used as human replacements in areas such as automotive manufacturing, micro-scale fabrication and exploration of remote environments (e.g. space, deep sea, and the Antarctica). Robotic technology is also valuable in building functional prosthetics for the handicapped people so that the devices provide more comfort and convenience.

Robots are essentially machines that can collect data about their environment, process the data and then react based on the processed data. Generally, a robot encompasses a couple of sensors, a processor (its brain) and a few actuators. Sensors detect and collect information from the surroundings. The processor analyses the data and commands the actuators to react.

In principle, a robot does not have to look like humans as portrayed in movies and TV shows. As long as an object has sensors, processors and actuators, it is can be classified as a robot.

So, how does a robot know what it is touching when it cannot see or hear the object? It does so by identifying the unique features of the object. In the case of a key, the unique feature is the row of edges found on a key blade. There are many algorithms that can detect these identifying features. One method is to use hybrid system optimization. This algorithm takes into account the physical properties of the robotic finger when calculating the features in order to achieve better performance.

Robotic touch (or more commonly known as haptics by researchers in this area) is an advanced research field currently actively explored by scientists. It is a multi-disciplinary field with joint efforts from various disciplines (mechanical, electrical, materials, etc).


Written by: 
Ms Wee Hui Bieh, AFMSA, August 2016

Original Author of Robotic Touch section of the article:       
Leong Yoke Peng, first year Ph.D student in Control & Dynamics Systems, California Institute of Technology, USA.

Full article on Robotic Touch is available at www.scientificmalaysian.com magazine, Issue No.4

This post is also available in: zh-hans简体中文 (Chinese (Simplified))