Embodied mobility: A prosthesis to the traveling body
Rhodehamel, Scott Stephen
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Statement of Issue/Problem. The Centaur is a creature from Greek Mythology having characteristics of both human and horse. The interface between the two creatures is seamless because it is biological, just as we intuitively guide our own feet with our nervous system. Given this example, it is curious how we move through space with the aid of machines such as the motorized vehicle. Like the Centaur, there should be an increased interaction and regard between the body and the machine. Transporting the body might be transformed by taking into consideration the way the body inherently moves. The way the human body conducts movement should be the means by which it is directed through space. Using a means of mechanical communication, the vehicle has the potential to be a prosthetic to the traveling body. This would mean the methods by which we conduct travel are likely to become more self-governing and visceral. "[t]he machine, which man summoned into being and adapted to himself, is likewise adapting man, his psychology, to itself." -Moisei Ginzburg. Statement of Significance of issue. Transportation design is not only an environmental issue, it is also significant in the way we interact with space. The measures taken to make transportation more sustainable are not even able to keep the emissions of CO2 constant. A single passenger traveling in a two-ton automobile designed to seat 7 is not going to be viable in the future. The transportation of the individual will have to be by a vehicle at the scale of the individual. In this study the focus will be on the individual, human-scaled transport. Considering the rate of world population expansion, it is clear that more people will have to be moved around in the immediate future. This is a global issue: as cities are becoming denser and more populated, the solution cannot be to expand highway lanes, but rather to condense the motorized vehicle. There is a twenty-six-lane highway in Houston, a fourteen-lane highway in Toronto, an eight-lane highway in Melbourne, and six-lane highways in India, China, Germany, France, etc... They are only bound to increase. Buffalo is a particularly interesting case. Although the city has lost a significant amount of population since the 1950's, the number of average vehicular miles traveled annually has increased substantially. It is a case where fewer people are driving more cars than in the past few decades. The way we travel will inevitably become a major issue. Method of Inquiry. Research will include: (1) A Study of prosthetics to understand the interface between organism and supplement. Prosthetics supplement the body through the use of human muscle, skeleton, and the nervous system to enhance motor control. As far back as the Ancient Egyptians there is evidence of wood and leather prosthetics. These served to supplement the body's ability to travel more effectively. (2) A study of force transfer in athletic workout equipment, found for instance in a common gym, to understand the calibration of the intensity of the body's communication with the machine. Bodily motion will be transferred into energy. That energy will have to be regulated to the sensitivity of the motorized vehicle, at times resisting force and at times amplifying it. (3) A study of the conveniences and limits of the automobile, and of disabled vehicle adaption and its relationship to the body. (4) A study of historical self-propelled vehicles scaled to the single body such as the bicycle and the Gossamer Albatross. (5) A study of modern motorized vehicle design focusing on: scale to the single body, such as Toyota's PM production costs, such as the Tata Nano environmental efficiency, such as the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight. Expected Outcome. The outcome will be a motorized vehicle for transporting a single body. The vehicle will be conducted by intuitive body position as a result of inertia. The fluid body-machine interaction will be proactive rather than reactive: leaning forward would produce forward propulsion; leaning back would reduce the motion to a stop. Leaning to the side would initiate a turn. Minor tasks would be controlled by the hands such as changing gears, operating the choke and clutch, idle adjustment, and cutting the engine.