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Kinesthetic Communication in Zero Gravity

Bridging Earth and Space via Tangible and Non-verbal Interaction

Published onOct 04, 2023
Kinesthetic Communication in Zero Gravity

💲Prototype BoM




Update on the prototype development progress:

I’ve been mostly fine tuning the 3D models of the prototype-2 components to have the extension mechanism work reliably. I’ve tried three different mechanism (1. Geared rollers, 2. Little rover, 3. Wheel in the spool) to make it work and so far I am toward to the last option.

  1. Geared rollers

  1. Little Rover only

  1. Wheel in the spool

    I have tired with two different actuators to rotate the spool; 1.DC geared motor and 2. servo motor.

  • DC geared motor

  • Servo motor


Note from the today’s brainstorming session.

Main things to consider now is:

How to set up the communication between the ground station and the flight - or what would be the alternative way that does not require any real-time remote communication?

Side view: Working on updating the current prototype of the Design 2 based on the 3D printed part assembly I had last week.

The wheels are just temporary components to test the shape-changing ability of the yellow part, and I’m thinking of replacing it with the Design-1 prototype for the linear extraction/contraction motion


Concept Overview

As we venture beyond Earth's confines into the vast expanse of space, we encounter unique challenges that necessitate novel approaches to communication and interaction [1][2]. One such challenge emerges within the realm of zero gravity and the multicultural environment of future space habitats, where conventional verbal communication and physical gestures undergo transformation, paving the way for innovative modes of connection.

This research proposal embarks on a journey to explore the uncharted territory of "Kinesthetic Communication in Zero Gravity." The goal of this research is to uncover the intricacies of non-verbal, tangible interaction between astronauts or individuals living in a space habitat within a microgravity environment, forging a bridge between Earth and space, or within the space habitat with a multicultural environment, transcending linguistic and cultural boundaries [3][4][5].

Tangible interactions and tactile communications enhance one’s sense of presence and social connectedness. Therefore, I propose the concept of "Tangible Telepresence (Fig.1)," which creates a feeling of physical and social presence in the real world across distances and time to reduce psychological distance. To achieve this, I plan to develop a modular kinesthetic language block that can be assembled to construct a dynamic, shape-changing structure and render various rhythmic motions with force-feedback. This system will be paired with an identical block/structure so that the overall shape and motions are synchronized in real-time to convey different non-verbal messages across distances.

Figure 1. Overview of the Tangible Telepresence concept for connecting people in different spaces. The three different colors (pink, blue, yellow) highlight the potential interaction space using the paired and synchronized kinesthetic interface. This figure illustrates one example, focusing on a room environment on Earth. However, we envision this interaction space extending to extreme environments under varying gravity levels. In this proposal, our primary focus will be on the graspable version (marked as the blue area). This version can be placed on any surface or float in the space environment, maintaining a certain distance from the user or being held by hand for direct manipulation to send and receive immediate messages.

Research Questions

The main research questions I aim to address through the Zero-G flight experiment are as follows:

  1. How can we effectively deliver distinct perceived forces to individuals in Earth and Space environments (micro/hypergravity) via a kinesthetic connected interface?

  2. What control parameters need adjustment to ensure that the paired devices render identical motion and force behavior for a dyad, with one individual residing on Earth and the other in a microgravity environment?

  3. In a hyper/microgravity environment, what types of motion and structural elements are optimal for conveying clear and concise non-verbal messages to observers on Earth?

  4. How can we use the proposed system to record Zero-G flight experiences and replay them, representing the motions through the proposed interface, to share with those who haven't experienced it?

Tentative Prototype Design

Design 1

Figure 2. Prototype Design for Design 1: Our plan involves the development of a retractable and extendable boom structure, which will feature linear motion actuated by a brushless DC motor. This boom structure will be stowed inside the node structure (depicted as the white ball structure in the figure) and can be extended manually by a user or automatically actuated by the motor to adjust its length.

Figure 3. Assembly examples of using the linear actuator module blocks. By adjusting the length of each block, the overall shape of the structure can be changed. We plan to have the node structure to be assemblable to each other by magnetic force with a ball joint structure.

Figure 2. Section view (Z-plane) diagram of the linear actuator module block.

The mechanism of this extendable module is inspired by a deployable boom structure (storable tubular extendible masts: STEM) used for satellite’s antenna [6][7] We plan to develop the boom structure (shown as yellow part in Fig. 2, 4) using carbon fiber fabric (unidirectional and plain weave) layers with epoxy that has a bi-stable structure.

Design 2

Figure 5. Default state of the Prototype design of Design 2. Unlike the Design 1, this module allows users to render a plenary motion by controlling the rotation angle of the R0 and the length between R0 and R1.

Figure 6. The module will be equipped with two motors to actuate both the roller and slider, enabling a 2DOF motion for the strip structure (highlighted in yellow in the figure). By adjusting the distance between the two rollers (R0 and R1), the height of the tape structure's end tip (depicted as a triangle) can be altered. Additionally, the roller angle of R0 (on the right side, controlled by a servo motor) can be varied to control the tilt angle of the strip structure. Essentially, these two motions allow the module to control the XY position of the tape structure's end tip, denoted by the red dot.

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