Read here about Vytas SunSpiral, a researcher at NASA Ames Research Center who applies tensegrity concepts to robotic design.

Overview

Vytas SunSpiral is a Senior Robotics Researcher in the Intelligent Robotics Group within the Intelligent Systems Division at NASA Ames Research Center. .

Early Years

Born as Thomas Willeke, Vytas SunSpiral assumed his current name when he married his wife, Claire. At that time he formally took 'Vytas' as his first name. Vytas is an old Lithuanian name that is a shortened version of 'Vytautas' -- which can be translated as either "Speaker of Visions" or "Vision of the People." For a last name they chose SunSpiral, Vytas being partially inspired by the sun he featured on a shield he used in Midieval fighting since he was 18 years old.

Vytas was educated at Stanford University, earning a B.A. and M.A. there. He completed his B.A. With Honors in June 1997. His major was "Symbolic Systems," an interdisciplinary major that includes courses from the departments of Philosophy, Psychology, Linguistics, and Computer Science. He also completed a self-designed concentration on robotics and artificial intelligence, with independent research on autonomous robotics, map building in dynamic settings, and hypothesis generation conducted with Dr. Illah Nourbakhsh and Clay Kunz. He earned his M.S. Computer Science in June 1998 from Stanford University, CA, USA. His Masters Advisor was Dr. Oussama Khatib. A self-designed course of study on various aspects of autonomous robotics was completed, along with research into TR trees for Dr. Nils Nilsson (for a report on this work see http://ai.stanford.edu/users/nilsson/trweb/learningcontrol.pdf.

Career Highlights

SunSpiral significantly raised the profile of tensegrity-structured robotics with the Super Ball Bot, an ongoing project that has generated significant publicity and involved institutions outside of NASA, such as University of Berkeley.

Tensegrity-Related Publications


Partial list of Tensegrity-Related Publications by SunSpiral, collected October 2014 from his CV.

  • In-Won Park, Vytas SunSpiral, “Impedance Controlled Twisted String Actuators for Tensegrity Robots,” To appear in Proceedings of the 2014 14th International Conference on Control, Automation and Systems (ICCAS 2014), KINTEX, Korea, October 2014.
  • Atil Iscen, Adrian Agogino, Vytas SunSpiral, Kagan Tumer, “Flop and Roll: Learning Robust Goal-Directed Locomotion for a Tensegrity Robot,” To Appear in Proceedings of The 2014 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2014), Chicago, USA, September 2014.
  • Andrew P. Sabelhaus, Jonathan Bruce, Ken Caluwaerts, Yangxin Chen, Dizhou Lu, Yuejia Liu, Adrian K. Agogino, Vytas SunSpiral, Alice M. Agogino, “Hardware Design and Testing of SUPERball, a Modular Tensegrity Robot”, in Proceedings of The 6th World Conference of the International Association for Structural Control and Monitoring (6WCSCM), Barcelona, Spain, July 2014.
  • Brian T. Mirletz, In-Won Park, Thomas E. Flemons, Adrian K. Agogino, Roger D. Quinn, andVytas SunSpiral, “Design and Control of Modular Spine-Like Tensegrity Structures”, in Proceedings of The 6th World Conference of the International Association for Structural Control and Monitoring (6WCSCM), Barcelona, Spain, July 2014.
  • Jonathan Bruce, Andrew Sabelhaus, Ken Caluwaerts, Alice Agogino, Vytas SunSpiral, “SUPERball: Exploring Tensegrities for Planetary Probes,” in Proceedings of 12th International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space (i-SAIRAS 2014), Montreal, Canada, June 2014.
  • Jeffrey Michael Friesen, Alexandra Pogue, Thomas Bewley, Mauricio de Oliveira, Robert E. Skelton, Vytas SunSpiral, “A Compliant Tensegrity Robot for Exploring Duct Systems”, in Proceedings of International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Hong Kong, 2014
  • Jonathan Bruce, Ken Caluwaerts, Atil Iscen, Vytas SunSpiral, “Design and Evolution of a Modular Tensegrity Robot Platform”, in Proceedings of International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Hong Kong, 2014
  • Brian Tietz, Ross Carnahan, Richard Bachmann, Roger Quinn, and Vytas SunSpiral, “Tetraspine: Robust Terrain Handling on a Tensegrity Robot Using Central Pattern Generators,” In Proceedings of 2013 IEEE/ASME International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics (AIM 2013), Wollongong, Australia, July 2013. Vytas SunSpiral, George Gorospe, Jonathan Bruce, Atil Iscen, George Korbel, Sophie Milam, Adrian Agogino, David Atkinson, “Tensegrity Based Probes for Planetary Exploration: Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) and Surface Mobility Analysis,” in Proceedings of 10th International Planetary Probe Workshop, San Jose, California, June 2013
  • Atil Iscen, Adrian Agogino, Vytas SunSpiral, and Kagan Tumer. “Robust Distributed Control of Rolling Tensegrity Robot” In proceedings Autonomous Robots and Multirobot Systems (ARMS) Workshop, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May, 2013.
  • Atil Iscen, Adrian Agogino, Vytas SunSpiral, and Kagan Tumer. “Controlling Tensegrity Robots through Evolution” In proceedings of Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference, (GECCO 2013), Amsterdam, The Netherlands, July 6-10, 2013.
  • Atil Iscen, Adrian Agogino, Vytas SunSpiral, and Kagan Tumer. “Learning to Control Complex Tensegrity Robots.” In proceedings of Twelfth International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS), Saint Paul, Minnesota, May, 2013.

Tensegrity-related Presentations


Partial list of Tensegrity-Related Presentations by SunSpiral, collected October 2014 from his CV.

  • “Refactoring Space Exploration with Soft Machines” Invited Presentation to the SETI Institute, Mountain View, CA, March 2014.
  • “Tensegrity Robots, Neuroscience, Fascia, and Space Exploration” Invited Presentation to TTI Vanguard “Embracing Blur” Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, Feb 2014.
  • “Super Ball Bot - Structures for Planetary Landing and Exploration” Presentation to NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, Stanford University, Feb 2014.
  • “Refactoring Space Exploration with Soft Machines” Invited to Google Tech Talks, Mountain View, Ca, Nov 2013.
  • “Dynamic Tensegrities: Foundation for Motion and Thought” Invited Presentation to Center for Integrative Biomechanics, UC Berkeley, April 2013.
  • "Super Ball Bot - Structures for Planetary Landing and Exploration", presented at NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Spring Symposium, Chicago, Il, March 2013.
  • “Dynamic Tensegrities: Foundation for Motion and Thought” Invited Presentation to Computer Science Colloquium, University of Colorado, Boulder, Feb 2013
  • “Dynamic Tensegrities: Foundation for Motion and Thought” Invited Presentation to Cymer Center for Control Systems and Dynamics, UC San Diego, Dec 2012
  • “Dynamic Tensegrities: Foundation for Motion and Thought” Invited Presentation at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, June 2012
  • “How We Move: An Exploration of our Minds and Bodies from the Perspective of a NASA Robotics Researcher” Invited presentation at the We Are Movement Seminar Series, San Francisco, CA, April 2012.
  • “Dynamic Tensegrities: Foundation for Motion and Thought.” Invited presentation to the Biorobotics Lab at Casewestern Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, April 2012.
  • “Smart SPHERES: Free-flying Robots on the Space Station”, Invited presentation to the Silicon Valley Thought Leader Speaker Series, Ericsson Mobile, San Jose, CA, March 2012.
  • “SmartSPHERES: Space Station Robots” Invited presentation to “Robots in Space”, at Swissnex, San Francisco, CA, March 2012
  • “What Can We Learn About Our Bodies and Minds by Researching Robotics?” invited presentation to Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering Research Colloquium, University of Idaho, Feb 2011.
  • “Biotensegrity and Force Propagation in Human and Robotic Manipulation” invited presentation at Yuri’s Night, NASA Ames, CA, April 2008.


Selected Videos


Robotics Video by Nasa.Gov




London Real Documentary






Selected Readings


Selected readings on tensegrity related topics by SunSpiral and his students.

Links and References

Vytas SunSpiral's blog: http://www.magicalrobot.org
NASA website, out of date in 2014: http://ti.arc.nasa.gov/profile/Vytas_SunSpiral/

Portal to Robotics
A series on robotics.
Robots: 6 strut, Biot, Robotics, Morphological Computation, Super Ball Bot
People: Agogino, Behzadipour, Hirai, Shai, Sterk, SunSpiral , Tensegriteam
Organizations: UC Berkeley
Software: Nasa's NTRT