Saturday, May 19, 2012

DEAF festival & final exhibition

Last thursday we were at DEAF festival, where we presented our project and met Cesar Harada and some other members of Protei.

As a very cool present, we got an actual oil boom to test with.

Also, we are nearing the end of our semester and are therefore presenting our work at our final exhibition at TU/e. We will be presenting our work on Thursday June 7th, form 9.30 to 11.30 and on Friday june 8th from 13.30 to 15.30 in the Next Nature Theme (that is in the purple space on the 4th floor of the main building of TU Eindhoven) you are very welcome to come visit us and see our work.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, May 11, 2012

Swarm Models in Netlogo

 Hi There!

As many of you are aware, Protei wants to build an autonomous sailing fleet. For this dream to come true, Protei requires models of swarm behaviour, in order to predict what would happen to their fleet without actually trying it out with a possible result of crashing.

Keeping this thought in mind, I started developing a Swarm Model Testing Area, using a powerful engine called Netlogo. That said, I would like to share with you the first version of this model, and I would like to ask you to share your thoughts on it. Before you ask: Yes, it is a work in progress and no, the boats do not have a clue where they are going (yet). The next version (probably finished by sunday) will include flocking behaviour by the boats. By following the next link, you can access the model and start playing about!

The Swarm Model

Also, a Version log is available here: Version Log

Bear in mind that the dropping of oil isn't considered light-weight by this engine. It might take a while before the model reacts again. I am looking into that.



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Final Next Nature Presentations

 Although we have a couple of weeks left in our project, we had the final Next Nature presentations last friday. This was a nice chance to receive some feedback we where able to process in the last weeks of the project.

 Part 1
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Between part 1 and 2 are a few seconds missing.

Part 2
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Kind regards,


Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Protei species, Martijn & Stijn

We already introduced our idea of seeing Protei boats as a species in the midterm presentation. (A video can be found below) As mentioned in the presentation we chose to design the genes of the boat, that will make it possible to function in the group. This design will be in the form of a pilot, using input from sensors to navigate and operate the boat. Having a standard ‘brain’ for Protei boats that comes in a kit with sensors improves functionality an compatibility of homemade boats.

But organisms are more than genes (software) and a brain (core computer). Vital organs are of equal importance to ensure quality and sustainability of life for the Protei species. We believe that problems like bad maneuverability can be reduced by adding innovative organs (plug & play boat parts) to the kit. Expert assured us that it is impossible to address all problems properly within our limited time span, therefore we have to make choices.

This week we are finishing the pilot/brain prototype to be tested next week. Several different sample boats are being built at this very moment to test the pilot in different settings. The plan is to start concretizing the first ‘organ’ after this test. An example of a possible ‘organ’ is a interactive counter weight that makes it possible to get more energy from the sail and still lay flat in case of storm.

Here are some sneak peeks on one of the hulls we are building;

This is a versatile hull that supports adjusting the place of the mast and keel. The boat will be controlled by the protei pilot. Instructable and more elaborate descriptions will follow next week!

Thank you for reading,

Martijn & Stijn

Monday, April 2, 2012

Midterm Presentation

Here is a video of the midterm presentation we did on the 23rd of March.
Unfortunately Aryan's part was cut off.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Group 1; Cheap & easy sail

Martijn & Stijn made this sail for testing purposes, the instructable is here.
Next step is to build a hull...


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Design directions Next Nature for Protei, Group 1

Stijn Van Iersel, Martijn Lammers, Roel Smeets, Paul Staal

Protei has as a goal to create a vessel that can “live” autonomously and that can perform tasks as a swarm. In this description, we found similarities with the properties a species has. We are, at least for our project, proposing to approach our activities in the Protei project as if we are designing a newt species.Viewing Protei as a species provides us with design opportunities (or research questions).

Here, we will set the properties apart that the new species should possess and how these properties will, according to us, apply to Protei. We do not want to base these properties on any specific sort of species, but more on general aspects of nature to have a framework on which we can build up our Protei version and through which we can find opportunities to develop all of Protei’s functionalities. This framework is dynamic and the properties inside it can therefore be changed and new properties can be added.

Firstly, individuals get born. In the case of a Protei, this will happen through an interested contributor, building their own Protei. The design opportunity for this aspect lies in how the information of how to build a protei will be obtained. Designing a building kit is an interesting opportunity. Others are to create a better, clearer community where information about Protei is distributed. This way of working will create a ecosystem of similar but not identical Protei individuals and biodiversity may be a positive side effect.

The species called Protei can:

A new Protei will be born through the open source community. Interested “parents” can download plans or buy a kit with which they can build their own Protei. To ensure compatibility between different “breeds” of Protei, a certain standard will need to be set.
Design opportunities: development of a Protei building kit, development of open source community (a clear communication channel) including standards.

Respond to stimuli.
A protei responds to its environment. For example to cope with different wind directions when sailing, to objects blocking it’s path and to other Protei with which it is hunting for oil.
Design opportunities: What sensors should Protei have? Designing behavioral rules to which Protei should act, designing the learning algorithm inside protei (from what should it learn and from what should it not learn?)

As many species Protei will evolve over time. This will happen through development of the Protei concept by the open source community.
Design opportunity: create a evolution road map, development of the open source community.

Show collective behaviour
Being able to show collective behavior can have multiple advantages;
By interacting with each other Protei can share information on winds or oil spills (aka food).
With cooperation for protection, multiple Protei can, for example, stick together to protect themselves better from a storm. Together, Protei may be able to establish more efficient locomotion and quicker oil absorption.
Opportunity: Design a communication standard for communication between individual Protei.

Live in symbiosis
Being able to live in symbiosis with other organisms. In this case Protei will for example help birds who are covered in oil. While this is a rather extreme example, it might be more realistic to have Protei co-evolve. This can happen between different species of Protei (they can, for example, deliver software updates to each other. But maybe also between Protei and “natural” species.

Next step: Design briefs.
Based on these design opportunities each group member has written their own design brief.

Roel Smeets’ design brief
The design opportunity for me is to design and test the behavior of the drones. How will they communicate and how will they collect the oil? By creating visual models I want to test what methods are effective.  These models should be based on existing technology to provide me with helpful data. If I base my model on futuristic and non-existing technologies it cannot be implemented within the Protei project.

Furthermore, I think that the environment as well as the behavior of the drones has a great impact on the design of the drones. It will be an opportunity for me to use my designed behavior and environmental the aspects to create a design for the drones of the Protei species.

List of proposed activities during the project:
-    Research into species and swarms
-    Analyses of environment
-    Ideation of swarm behavior
-    Concept of collective swarm behavior
-    Testing of behavior
-    Improving behavior (if necessary)
-    Physical design of species
-    Physical prototype of swarm behavior

At the midterm presentations I want to present my research and my first ideas of group behavior. In the presentation I will show a visual of the environment in which the drones will be placed. This visual will include all the important aspects of the ecology. It displays the flora of the region, the fauna and also the influence of humans in the environment. The research I did on swarm behavior will be summarized and presented. The main point I will hope to receive feedback on is my ideas for swarm behavior. So this will be the key part of the presentation.

For the final exhibition I want to make a visual model that accurately displays a Protei swarm cleaning up oil spills. In the most ideal situation I will also have a small scale physical swarm that can execute swarm behavior on a small scale. Using the data a gathered about the swarms and the environment I will make a design for the drones. This design will be based on the tasks that the drone has to accomplish, the environment and the swarm behavior. It will not be restricted by current technology or feasibility.  

Paul Staal’s design brief
The general aim of the team is to look at the Protei living together as a species. A species that can reproduce, respond to stimuli, evolve, show collective behaviour and is able to live in symbiosis with other species.

My personal direction for this project is to get an understanding of how the boats communicate with each other. Growing up on a farm, I’ve always been around animals and I want to research their communication and integrate it in the communication of Protei. By looking at how animals communicate with each other to hunt or to prevent from being hunted upon, I want to create a ‘language’ for the Protei that is stripped down to its essentials. They should only communicate if they have to, so there should be as few rules as possible to ‘hunt down’ the oil-spills.

For the midterm presentation my goal is to finish research on animal behavior and make a computer model in Processing in which the Protei already have a basic intelligence to communicate where to find the oil and absorb it.

Stijn van Iersel & Martijn Lammers’s design brief

To suit the Next Nature theme the project is in, the main focus of the project will be looking at wild robots as a species of its own. This focus will be applied on the client Protei, there sailing boats will be seen as a species that reproduces, responds to stimuli, evolves, shows collective behaviour and is able to live in symbiosis with other species.

At this point the general understanding is that the protei species will reproduce itself by people that buy parts or a set/kit of parts (could be partially pre-assembled). The assembled product should be able to find its way to a swarm autonomously, allowing users to put it into the water anywhere.  To reach a realistic design in these aspects, attention needs to be paid to compatibility and affordability.

The design opportunity in this is to design a basic boat assembly with kits available worldwide. The boat and kit itself need to be designed in a way that the final assembly will be very simple and low cost for all users. When designing the kit the functionality needs be designed to be pre programmed. This is necessary to assure compatibility with the whole protei swarm. After designing the physical and operational part there is also a marketing/ business area that is to be designed. To give a clear image of what actions are needed to accomplish the reproduction of the Protei species business models are also needed.

Goals Stijn:

Midterm;         General Boat design + Business model
Final;        Specified Boat design + Kit design + Business model/analysis

Other design opportunities that add to the ones above are:
-    Way to follow your own Protei robot / personal bonding.
-    New born boats sharing their new software to update the existing swarm.

Goals Martijn:

Midterm: General boat design of an RC Protei boat, with at least multiple parts of this boat prototyped.

Research boat design (involve expert)
Build and test parts of the boat that can later be put together to form a complete boat.

Final:    RC boat design that is semi autonomous and of which a kit for home building is available.

Assemble all previously design boat parts into one complete boat. Which is semi-autonomous, this means the user will be in direct control of steering the boat (determining the course) and the other aspects of sailing, such as adjusting the sails, will be done by a sensor-actuator system on board of the boat.
The kit will be designed focused on it being reproducible through websites such as instructables, this means drawings + explanation of all the parts. In this phase I want to involve the instructables community very much as they will be the target group  of this kit.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Directions for Rik Bootsman, Pieter Lobbezoo & Pieter Bron

Over the past 2 project-weeks, various brainstorm sessions, discussions and research have been performed in order to get a clear view on what we want to get out of this project. On the right are the possible directions we've come up with on Monday the 13th of February. We've also performed a brainstorm session that day with random items, to see whether new ideas sprang to mind using these items.

After these brainstorm sessions, it became clear that we want to focus on the Artificial Intelligence, especially autonomous sailing and swarm control. How can we ensure that a fleet of - for instance - 10 vessels can harmoniously work together without crashing each other.

We then continued searching for the optimal building solutions in order to create an easy, yet efficient sailing drone.

- One sail instead of two sails. If you build a gaff rig up front of the drone, you can get proper pulling power without extra control difficulties.
- A canting keel aids the boat to stay at a more horizontal level, ensuring a bigger surface to catch wind in the sails. We might look into this in the future.
- We might want to use a special material for the sails: There exist a very tin fabric of solar panels which can be used as a sail. This way, you have a big surface where energy can be caught to charge the batteries. This is also for in the future.

Plan for now
Our plan is to build a quick and easy sailing drone. We then want to actuate it by using servo's etc., while the final step will be autonomising it. The specs for this boat will be uploaded soon.

Monday, February 13, 2012

1 day prototype: Banana-boat

This is a one day prototype for the Protei project ( Made at the Eindhoven University of Technology (Faculty of Industrial Design). Photo's are made by Pieter Bron.

The idea

Exploring different ways of steering while maintaining the maneuverability of the boat was one of our first iterations to start-up our project. Brainstorming sessions resulted into the concept of the Banana-boat.
The idea is that the front of the boat is rounded and shaped upwards, providing lift when the boat is moving forward. Upon taking corners, the front will rotate 90 degrees to the left or to the right, putting a rounded rudder in the water, resulting into the boat taking a corner.

Parts List

Wooden keel (Filled with heavy weight-stuff -> approx. 1,5 kg)
Wooden cylinder
Iron bars (Sail)
Iron rings (Sail)
Fabric (Sail)
Tie Wraps
Duct Tape

Construction of this prototype

Cut an iron bar with a length of 55 cm. Cut another iron bar with a length of 30 cm. (Diameter of 2.5 mm was used on our prototype) Now solder the 30 cm iron bar on the 55 cm, at a distance of 10 cm at one end of the larger bar. Solder it 1 cm from the end of the small bar.

Measure the required size for the fabric. (Differs per fabric as some are more elastic than others.) Then, punch 6 holes in the fabric where the rings should go. (Look at upper picture for reference.)

Punch iron rings (Grommets) in the holes, leaving you with the following.

Note: One of the holes is still missing here. See earlier picture for sixth grommet position.

Use tie-wraps to connect the 5 grommets on this picture with the iron bars. Finally, solder a third iron bar right between the other two iron bars and connect the sixth grommet to it with a tie-wrap.

Use foam to construct the boat. Construct a shape that looks like the following picture.

Length is approx. 60 cm. Rudder is 10 cm, diameter of the hull is 8 cm. Next, cut this construction in half. Create a wooden cylinder with a thickness of approx. 3 cm, with the same diameter as the hull. Create a hole on top of this cylinder and punch your sail in it. Connect the cylinder with the rear side of the boat. Glue/duct tape/however you wish together.

Create two more slightly curved rudders. Glue these on the front part of the boat, in line with the curve in the boat itself. Glue them on a 90 degrees distance from the main rudder. Connect it up with the unused side of the wooden cylinder by sticking an iron pin inside the cylinder, then punch the foam front on this iron pin so it can rotate.

Create a wooden keel, fill it with lead (approx 1,5 kg) an stick it on the opposite side of the wooden cylinder compared to the sail.

Thats it, your boat is ready! Pimp it, should you wish.


- This boat does float
- It is possible to steer the boat with this type of rudder.
- The sail catches wind and creates forward motion of the boat.

Friday, February 10, 2012

1 day prototype: Shifting hull (robot snake)

This is a one day protoype for the Protei project ( Made at the Eindhoven Universitiy of Technology (faculty of Industrial Design).
Movie by: Pieter Bron

The Idea
With this prototype, we wanted to explore the shape changing hull as it was introduced in earlier Protei boats. To do this we decided to build a hull that moves its body like a snake. The hull is made of foam and its movement is controlled by servos attached to an arduino.

Parts list:
Steel rods
Elastic bands
Servos + wiring

We constructed six equal pieces of foam for the snake’s body, a head and tail where also added.
As shown in the sketch below, the servos are placed in a mirrored pattern.This was done for better weight distribution and it was easier create snake-like behaviour.

With a scalpel, holes for the servos where made;

Then a hole was made in every segment through which an elastic band was fed. This band keeps all segments together. In the back and front the elastic band is held in place by a rod that is pierced through the band.

For the joints, we tried different things;

First we tried making the joints form soft foam, this turned out to be to flexible. The joint being to flexible caused the snake to bend also in different directions as it should.

In version 1 of the prototype (see movie) we used square joints made of the same hard foam as the rest of the body is made of. These joints worked better but made the movement of the snake a lot less smooth. Therefore we chose to use triangular joints (version 2 in the movie).

From this prototype we learned about the mechanical properties a shifting hull needs (the importance of the joints)
If we are going to use this technique in the future we should look into using less servos to make a complete body move (with energy efficiency and simplicity in mind).

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Skype Meeting with Piem Wirtz

At 16:00 on Monday, we had our first meeting with one of the members of the Protei team. It was a fruitful session which has given us a clear view on what to do and what Protei expects from us. Important points are written below.

Getting contact with the community

There will be a weekly skype-meeting with the core members of the community on Monday at 16:00. We are free to tune in and chat along, or just monitor what’s been said in order to know the progress of Protei.

Interesting Points

- How do you remote control a Protei from behind your desk?
- Lots of practical questions about the prototype aren’t answered yet.
- Increasing the joy-factor of the end-user controlling a Protei (for PR-reasons.)
- Cesar currently lives in London. He’s the master brain behind it all. -> Contact him?
- Protei Headquarters are currently being build in Norway.
- There are tips & tricks and do’s & don’ts written in the manuals of the prototypes.


Everyone builds on his own version of a 1-meter-sized boat, accompanied with his own iterations on their concepts. On the 17th of May, there will be a festival organized by V2: The DEAF-festival (Dutch Electronic Art Festival). Protei will be there, and so should we.

Everything is open source, so is our collaboration with Protei. It is therefore mandatory that everything we produce is openly available for the Protei community.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Kick-Off Project

This project has started on the 6th of February, 2012. First encounter with our Client will take place at 16:00 this day. Meeting questions are set-up, while a small brainstorm is performed on which aspects we - as designers - can take on for the development of Protei.