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stephendelaporte stephendelaporte

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Stephen Delaporte  Robotics engineer + entrepreneur | Working to better understand what 'everything' is through invention.


The Automation Drawing that Revealed Itself as a Prodigal Prophet: I recently found this old drawing that I produced in another one of my notebooks which is dated from almost 14 years ago (the date on this page is 2/20/04), and while the specific automation application that I was exploring at that time related to pharmaceuticals, the design is strangely similar to major parts of the robotic systems that I've been developing in recent years which has attracted interest and collaborations between my robotics company and some of the largest companies in the world. When you're working on something that is truly forward-thinking and difficult to implement, sometimes it can take a decade before you see that dream fully materialize. This is not uncommon for not just high-tech projects, but even in other industries such as the film industry, where elaborate and expensive movies, which are sometimes in what is referred to as "development hell", can take as long as a decade or more before they are even formally produced (i.e., Jurassic World, Deadpool, Spielberg's AI, James Cameron's Alita, Alien Vs. Predator, Blade Runner 2049, and so on). Arguably, the greatest virtue that any person possesses who is driving forward a difficult project to success is nothing more than stubborn and optimistic patience. #drawing #sketch #idea #technology #robotics #robots #automation #hardware #software #mechanicalengineering #film #movie #patience #perseverance #stubborn #tenacity #optimism

Wave Power Generator: After graduating from college, one of the first products I began developing, with the intention of bringing it to market, was a smaller scale version of the wave power generator prototypes that I had developed and built for my senior project in school. This was also my first real experience at trying to raise money for a hardware startup, and I soon realized after about a dozen rejections from prospective investors how difficult it was going to be to try to raise the capital I needed for not just alternative energy technologies, but anything related to hardware. At that time, my first company Aniteal Labs had achieved stable revenue with engineering contract work, and we had even gotten funding right away for a medical device project which we spun-off into another company, so it wasn't the end of the world to not see this product fully materialize, but what I've learned over the years, is that if you want to build a successful hardware company, there are really only two ways to do it given the risk-averse nature of Venture Capitalists as it relates to hardware investing. The first way is the Elon Musk way, which is to build a successful 'software' company first, and use the capital earned from that to fund your hardware development. The second way is to become an engineering implementation maven and figure out how to build the technology all on your own with a limited budget in such a way that you achieve profitability without relying on external investments. Your customers in that case become your early investors and once you've gained enough traction, VCs will eventually approach you instead of the other way around. Most really successful hardware companies in recent years were built this way, and their ability to achieve profitability while remaining ultra lean with zero external dependency is what was key to their success. Textbook examples of this include: Ubiquiti Networks, the largest wireless networking company for emerging markets, MakerBot, the most successful consumer 3D printing company, DJI, the largest drone company, GoPro, a leader in consumer cameras, and so on. #waves #power #ocean #water #energy #technology #persistence

Upending Bilateral Symmetry: This is a sketch (a quick one, but it's interesting to see my thoughts frozen on paper) that I found from an old notebook I produced (dated 2/2/05 from 13 years ago) which shows one of several early studies that I was working on at that time for a transformable vehicle concept that could change its shape and wheel configuration to adapt to any terrain using only four sets of two wheels. Essentially, the vehicle could drive as a standard car would, drive up steep terrain, drive and climb up a wall or a narrow tunnel, and also even climb and hang from a ceiling given the right environment. In effect, this was a vehicle that could travel anywhere on land in spite of natural obstacles and without relying on being airborne. I literally have hundreds of notebooks filled with thousands of ideas for inventions from over the years, and even though 95% of these ideas will never be realized, I find that revisiting them whenever I'm working on solving new problems with new ideas is always beneficial.
Interestingly, my robotics company was exclusively invited to propose a new kind of mobile robotic vehicle to one of the largest companies in the world in late 2017, and this shape-shifting vehicle concept drawing was one of my core inspirations for realizing this new robotic vehicle design for this particular company since it is also based around a retractable shape-shifting structure.
This concept was also inspired by better understanding one of the core factors that defines us physically, which is bilateral symmetry. Bilateral symmetry is a primary feature that evolved among our earliest ancestors from the Cambrian Explosion 540 million years ago, and if you really take a moment and think about it, cars are essentially an extension of our own bilateral symmetry. A car is like an elaborate human exoskeleton. Upending this bilateral symmetry constraint seems to be a key factor in opening up the possibility of creating mobility for a vehicle that is entirely universal. #robot #robotics #mobility #sketch #drawing #mobile #symmetry #technology #mechanicalengineering #sensors #wheel #sciencefiction #reallife

This is a surgical device I invented some years ago which is based around a unique expansion mechanism that is used for tissue dilation. #medical #technology #medicine #biomedical #mechanical #engineering #hardware #expansion #healthcare #wellness #health #life #innovation #surgery

Floating Cities - Part II (The Extinction Model): This was my preliminary engineering design for a full scale floating city that combined my multiple senior thesis projects in college into one project. The second image in this set shows an image I took of the design from a book I printed of all my college design and engineering projects (incidentally, I'm also planning to publish a book of several of my patents and inventions to date in 2019 with the working title: "bringing science fiction to life"). The third image shows the structural mechanism I developed and prototyped for a massive wave power generator system that would be needed to help power a floating city of this nature. For an entity such as this to be truly self-sustaining, the city would need to combine a farm for harvesting power from waves and sunlight, a second farm for harvesting vegetation, and a third farm for raising fish.
But the real question is: why would anybody care to live on a floating city? My pragmatic answer is that this may in fact be humanity's terrestrial fate. There are only a few species that have survived multiple major extinctions, and those include Jellyfish, Agnatha, Nautilus, and Horseshoe Crabs, and humans may also eventually be added to this list. But, tragically, our own prospective extinction event will likely be self-generated. According to the NOAA, the projected sea level rise for Florida alone by 2099 will be approximately 10-11 ft due to global warming. This is a frightening rate which would lead to most land being completely subsumed by the sea within the next 500-1000 years.
In effect, if we can't engineer our way out of global warming soon, we will likely have to engineer our way onto floating cities such as the one I have proposed here. #ocean #sea #floating #structure #waves #power #architecture #mechanicalengineering #farm #fish #solar #globalwarming #humanity #fate

Floating Cities - Part I: When I was in college I became obsessed with the idea of designing my own floating city, and as someone who has always felt like an outsider with a healthy disregard for both authority and politics, a self-sustaining floating city was something that was especially attractive to me personally. I also felt that designing a floating city would be the ultimate fusion of the three areas that I studied in school, which was structural engineering, architecture, and mechanical engineering. This particular design was one of a series of early conceptual visualizations of the idea, and a completely impractical one from an engineering perspective, but as I fine tuned the vision, it evolved into something that could conceivably be built in the real world (see next post for part II which shows how the concept evolved). #water #city #cityscape #ocean #concept #visualization #architecture #design #pods #floating #structure #urbanism #mechanical #technology #power #waves #future

Google Chrome Switch Pitch Toy: Many years ago I co-developed and prototyped this transformable sphere toy, which was one of several products and technologies I designed while working as an engineer with Chuck Hoberman who is a pioneering engineer in the field of transformable design and robotics. Over the years, this product, which transforms when thrown in the air by inverting itself inside-out, had sold at places like Toys R Us for a while, and it even sold at 7-11 for a few years as well. Interestingly, I recently gave away a bunch of these and another toy I developed from that time to the elementary school class of a friend of mine as she was looking to gift her students toys for the holidays. I always try to keep an extra stash of products I've developed in the past in case someone ever wants them, and it just so happens that while I was getting ready to send the package of these toys out, I was scanning the web for an image of the toy to also share with the students the concept of how it works, and discovered that Google has been handing them out at their I/O developer conferences as a fun giveaway over the years because of its resemblance to the Chrome logo (this one was customized to match the logo colors for them)! I may not have gotten anything directly in return for giving my toy designs away this past holiday, but I think my gift in return was simply in making this interesting discovery all these years later! #toy #toys #mechanics #engineering #mechanicalengineering #robotics #design #sphere #transformation #fun #children #bigkid #color #chrome #google

Harvard Robot (see 3rd slide for early prototype evolution video): About four years ago I was invited to develop a social robot with a startup being launched from Harvard Business School which was created to teach children and young adults new languages (we named it Mukti after a Harvard professor). After hearing about my robot designs, the original team invited me to help them out initially as an advisor and I suggested that they hack a Furby robotic toy to help them get the project off the ground, and once they were able to get some funding from Harvard, I came on board as part of the founding team and developed a preliminary prototype as far as I could with the limited resources that they had available (and developed most of what you see in less than three months, which is unusually fast for what I produced using only 3D printed parts and custom designed gear boxes etc.). Before working on this, I had no interest in designing facial robotic mechanics, but I became really intrigued by the problem and tried to come up with something that would be more advanced than any Furby robotic toys which had been launched to date. The robot could blink with its upper and lower eyelid, it could turn its eyes (left and right and up and down for a final version), and it would also have multiple degrees of freedom in its mouth mechanics to achieve a more life-like appearance when speaking (the end of the video shows how I used cast silicone rubber for the mouth). I also developed a mechanism that allowed the robot to grow over time as a child or young adult learns from it, which was also a novel concept. When two of the main founders both moved back to France, the startup (as tech startups often do) fizzled out, but it helped catalyze my own interest in solving the facial mechanics problem, especially as it relates to a real human face, which few have even come close to achieving in a realistic way. #harvard #hbs #robot #robotics #mechanicalengineering #software #technology #teacher #education #learning #children #toy #porg #life #ai #language

Jazz break (1): In memory of my childhood piano teacher Morton Estrin who passed away a few weeks ago (just shy of his 94th birthday), I quickly composed this improvisational piece yesterday to highlight one of the things that I've always remembered from his pedagogy, which was chord structure (I studied with jazz legend Dave Burns too). Morton Estrin was a world renowned pianist of the highest caliber who played at many famous concert halls around the world which included solo performances at Carnegie Hall on multiple occasions. He was most famous for his interpretation of the Scriabin Etudes (and for teaching many famous musicians including Billy Joel), and he was a true master and an extreme perfectionist, and so much of who I am today stems from the time I spent as a student of his, which was for about 8 years (from ages 9-17). He strongly believed in me and my talent for music, so much so that he urged me to go to Juilliard (his alma mater), but I of course had other plans, and when I told him I wanted to become an engineer, he laughed at me - ha! He had such an intense passion for music and craft that I'd be incredibly lucky to meet another individual in my lifetime with his level of intensity in almost any field. And while he could be incredibly demanding and strict as a teacher, he always ended every lesson with a radiant smile and some bit of rare wisdom that he would pass down to me. I once came across an article about Billy Joel after he won the prestigious JFK Center for Performing Arts lifetime achievement award, where they quoted him: (Morton Estrin, who taught classical piano to Joel, says he remembers the then-11-year-old's interest in Beethoven but doesn't recall thinking his student was anything out of the ordinary. "He was OK for the elementary level," says Estrin... "He borrows melodies from great composers and applies them into his own style," he says. Asked if he was surprised by Joel's career success, Estrin says, "Well, it happened.") I love this because it speaks to how high Estrin's standards were. Even Billy Joel his most famous student and one of the most loved musicians of our time barely got a pass! #music #jazz #piano #steinway

This is a revolutionary new automation based complex fluid control technology for applications related to both healthcare and medical devices that I developed for Johnson & Johnson which is the largest medical device company in the world (its internal code name was 'Project Einstein'). This was one of dozens of prototypes that I designed and built for them, and it is probably the single hardest technology I've ever developed - every single small part needed to be custom designed and tested for each prototype to work properly. I practically lived at J&J's HQ for the year that I worked on this. J&J is a highly risk-averse company that was built off of simple, minimum viable products (surgical dressing etc.) which afforded them the opportunity to acquire more sophisticated technologies for their product lines over the years, so generating this technology internally was almost an anomaly. I've also been told that this project was one of the most complex and radical things that was ever developed from the inside at J&J. Complexity always seems to find me even though I never actively seek it out. Nevertheless, I was able to advance this project dramatically and improve its efficiency and also reduce its size by about 4x, which were important development milestones that were fulfilled to meet the extreme requirements that J&J established for this project. Capitalists may control the flow of money and ultimately decide what gets to be produced in the world, but it's the engineers, scientists, and artists who create a large part of the real value in the world, and they are the ones who should be treated and rewarded like Kings and Queens. #technology #medical #medicaltechnology #electromechanical #hardware #fluid #fluidcontrol #automation #mechanics #fluiddynamics #fortune500 #challenging #lowhype #highvalue

This is a sneak peek image of a secret weekend project I've been developing over the last two years as of this month in collaboration with a great genius from Australia. Other enormous talents will be involved with this project in time as it evolves further. Stay tuned for something historic. #robotics #technology #hardware #humanoid #skin #prosthetics #westworld #michaelcrichton #exmachina #bladerunner #coda(z) #ai #artificialintelligence #realmagic #life

Speaking of purgatory ('purgatorio' from Dante), on the Friday night a few days before Halloween, I left my office at 3 am, as I often do, and while my work day had just come to a close, I stumbled into a Halloween event called Babel that was just beginning a few buildings down from where my office is located in the Navy Yard. This was one of the most well designed and well orchestrated events I've ever been to. Performers who were dressed in impeccably designed goblin costumes meandered through the crowd while breathing and juggling fire. Beasts with horns danced among us with heights as tall as 10 ft. carefully disguising their stilts by wearing original textiles that would impress even the most discerning of fashion-conscious guests. Acrobatic performers dangled in the air from silks affixed from above and were dressed to assume more angelic-like creatures. This was purgatory at its best. The attendees were awaiting the cleansing of their sins by unexpected artful performances where the line between stage and audience was blurred to the point where one would not know that they too were apart of this grand ongoing performance. #halloween #babel #costumes #dance #fire #performance #electronicmusic #purgatory

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