The Direction-master

This idea came while we were reflecting about a robot that would be able to drive in a given direction, then change to another pre-determined direction. Very rough task, as every robot-builder knows! We recommend the book "Where am I? Sensors and methods for mobile robot positioning" by J. Borenstein, H.R. Everett and L. Feng University of Michigan 1996, which you can download from

The principle of the gear, differential and angle-sensor based robot comes from the China's South-Pointing Carriage. The figure below (taken from the cover of the document "Electronic Compass, Master Thesis in Computer Systems Engineering" by Andreas Kroop and Peter Neander, Halmstad University, 1995 .) shows this "carriage used in ancient China. The carriage itself consisted of a two-wheeled cart on which a human figue was mounted, always pointing to the south. A mechanical construction consisting of wooden geared wheels kept the figure always pointing south, no mtter how the carriage was turned. Even if one wheel is held stationary and the cart is rotated through a complete 360degrees circle the figure will point south all the time. The Legend says that the Chinese Emperor, Huang-ti, 2698-2598 B.C., constructed the south-pointing carriage. The carriage was used to guide Huang-ti and his solders to enemy troops, which were successfully defeated."

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