Skunktaur lowbody

Version 1.0, Jan 5 2009

by leonardo maffi (with image and help from Alessio "Scale" Scalerandi)

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Here's the first sketch of a larger and more complex scene I have started to create with Scale, that I hope will be carried on (as usual the drawing is by Scale):

Some notes (if you spot errors in the language or on other things please tell me):

- It's a prosthesis, it's a robot shaped as the lowbody of a skunktaur. It will be used by a 15-years old young human that has lost the legs (up to the hip joints) in a flying shuttle accident. The scene is set in the chakasa universe, but about in the year 2090, more than a century before the chakasa exists, so no true biological taurs are around yet.
- The full scene is supposed to be inside an hospital, with the human about to be attached to such lowbody.
- The tail is covered by high-quality (waterproof, dirty-repellent, etc) synthetic fur, in the image it's covered by a plastic bag, for hygiene during the operation.
- This robot (even if it looks like half robot it's a full robot still) will be attached to her spine with a mechanical and data link, it transmits tactile sensations, of the ground, claws, joints, pain, damages, etc. Sexual sensations (the robot is a male and able to mate, for her request, despite no biological taurs exist around), it can keep balance by itself and it has two little and almost invisible cameras to look at the ground, to improve its movements. The human owner can move limbs, tail, etc. (The tail can also wag as in dogs, because lot of humans can understand this signal).
- The surface of the robot is furless, but almost all the body surface is touch sensitive (feet palms/soles too!), and sends such data to the human brain (that requires time and training to merge such maps in the brain with the ones already present for the upper body). The 'hair bulbs' of the fur of the tail too are touch sensitive, so caresses to the tail are felt.
- The robot looks like a robot, beside the tail no attempt has being made to make it look biological. It has hard retractile claws used automatically for traction on difficult terrain and for self defense.
- Movements are produced by silent artificial muscles.
- The base of the tail contains a little cold fusion reactor, that uses hydrogen from the water coming from the moisture of the air. (if such thing isn't available then it will just use fuel cells and the robot surface will be photoelectric too).
- Despite the strong look, the robot is made with light materials, to avoid troubles to the human during a fall. But it almost never falls down, the hind feet are plantigrade and the robot has a very good balance, it can even walk on just the hind feet.
- The robot has a small number of gadgets: pockets to carry small items, a small light, satellite receiver for geographical localization, mobile telephone, a little water flask that sometimes is kept empty, self-inflating bags on the sides for flotation in water, a little hidden winch with a thin thread for emergencies, a microphone to listen to vocal commands, a way to produce sounds and voice, and handles on the side (normally hidden) for the hands of the human. Most of such things are normally invisible.
- The small AI of the robot has vocal synthesizer too, but usually it doesn't talk because most things are felt by the human owner, like over-heating, "tiredness" of joints, etc.
- The robot is designed to be used several hours a day for years, so it's reliable and for example the rubber pads under the feet come out slowly as they wear out, etc. In her house the human owner has simple mechanical arms to detach herself from the prosthesis, for example to go to bed, etc.
- The robot is mostly waterproof, it can be used under rain and the owner can even take a normal shower while being attached still (useful if she is in a hotel or she has little time), but it's not much good for swimming, it swims with four legs like a dog, slowly.
- There's a hole under the tail that can open up to expel both her body wastes, but inside the robot there are also chemicals similar to the ones used in chemical WCs for situations when the taur can't use a bathroom soon. Such cloaca hole is partially self-cleaning (a different penis model can emit the urines, but I think this isn't much important).
- This robot is a Japan-Italy design, with some Chinese parts. But many other parts and software come from various other nations and sources.
- The robot is able to even gallop, quickly enough, but it's too much dangerous for the human owner, so it's done only in emergencies.
- I don't know if the human owner wants to wear black&white dresses to look more fitting to the lowbody. I presume she likes skunks a lot, but I think she doesn't wear things like fake fluffy ears, etc.
- The human goes to school too with that robot, of course. The robot can sit or crouch or lay in the same position for hours, with no problems. But the artificial muscles need a little of movement every day to keep their efficiency. For her friends at school the robot lowbody looks strange enough, because despite the presence of some robots around, such lowbody prosthesis is very uncommon. Some of them may want to caress the tail too.
- At home the human sleeps on a normal bed, detached from the lowbody. But when necessary (for example in a hotel, etc) she can sleep even attached to the robot, after it lays on a side. The robot is able to move the legs to stand up from any position.
- She likes the robot, but in 2090 there can already be ways to regrow legs, so why this prosthesis is skunk-shaped? Why not? If you are going to be attached to a robot, you aim for the nicest and best robot you can have :-) Why a skunk? She likes skunks, the plantigrade hind feet give more stability, (and if necessary the robot can be modified to look more like a digitigrade canine).
- The idea for a robotic lowbody like this one isn't new, I have even read a story like this (with a vixen taur, http://www.chakatsden.com/chakat/Stories/NearEnough.html ) but it doesn't matter.
- The human has mechanical links to the hips and spine, that come out of her skin, they are designed to let skin grows all around them, like in human nails, to keep hygiene. If later she will ask to grow new human legs, they will be removed.
- Legs are robust enough, and the artificial muscles break progressively and not all once. So total failure of a leg is quite uncommon. In such situation the robot is able to walk well enough on three legs. If both the forelegs break, the robot is able to slowly walk as biped on the hind feet. If both the hind legs break, the fore legs and their extended claws allow to crawl. Energy is usually present, and artificial muscles don't get tired, so such crawling can continue for days no-stop (but the human has to find a way to keep her body from touching the ground).
- The human can control every movement of every part of the robot, but during cyclic movements, like walk, trot, etc, the robot usually moves automatically. In such situation the robot is also able to stop by itself, in presence of obstacles, dangers, red traffic lights, or just because the desired destination is reached.
- Beside the basic automatic movements like walk, trot, gallop, ambling, climbing various kinds of stairs, sit, crouching, laying on a side and standing up normally, standing on the hind feet, double kicks with the hind feet (they can be strong enough, for self-defense, to break vertical surfaces, etc), strong blows with the fore paws (with extended claws they can become weapons, they can break wood and things, etc, but they are mostly designed to walk so such usage may damage them, and it's only for exceptional situations), the AI of the robot can perform other more complex movements, like avoiding various kinds of dangers, etc. With enough training (that may require months) the human can learn to control every joint. The body isn't as flexible as a true skunk body, the degrees of freedom are more limited, to keep the body simpler and avoid dangerous movements too. So compared to a true skunktaur she/he moves in less ways.
- The robot is able to navigate by itself between rooms or trees, even when there's no human attached. It adapts to the change of weights. It's able to recognize its owner, from the voice too, fingerprints, cryptographic code given by the spinal implant, etc. When the human calls the robot, it comes closer and makes itself ready for the joining.
- If the human gets unconscious, the robot detects that immediately from the spinal feedback. In such situations the small AI can move to avoid dangers (compensating the balance for the now probably flabby upbody). Of course it can also receive wireless commands, etc. In such situation some heuristics are used by the AI, for example orders from parents are more readily followed. Being the robot designed to be used for years, its purpose is also to keep alive its human.
- The robot is first of all designed to give legs to a person that has lost them. But it's not a basic helper useful only in a controlled environment, it's designed for more refined things too, it's designed to offer a good enough life. So beside sex, it's designed to walk in the outdoors too, along thin mountain trails, on sand, in woods with clean enough ground, it can avoid small branches and jump little torrents (for short horizontal or vertical jumps the human can ask for the lateral handles to come out, so she can hold herself on them), or walk on slippery rocks, etc. In some of such places it refuses to gallop to keep safety, you need a vocal code to overcome such safety seals. So the robot accepts gallops only on good grounds (sand or better), trot is more accepted, as a quick walking. On good asphalt at max speed its gallop may reach up to 50-60 km/h, but such speeds are only for emergencies, because despite the very short reaction times of the robot that allows it to usually keep balance, a fall in such situation may easily kill the human.
- During the walk the robot is able to dissipate all the heat produced by the muscles and joints, even under the sun and in a hot day. So it can walk no stop. During the trot the temperature slowly grows, but often it's not a problem. During the gallop the temperature grows, so after a while the body has to slow down to avoid overheating. Wetting the surface, taking a shower or bath helps cool down the body faster. There are internal fans and pumps into the belly and near the shoulder and hip joints, etc. There are thermocouples and tubes with cooling liquid to cool the main joints too.
- The male genitals of the robot are more or less fully functional (but they are of course sterile), they send sensations to the human host, are partially self-cleaning, self-heated when used, they are usually kept closed to be clean, they can be removed for better cleaning (but they can also be cleaned in place, this is probably better for the host). The robot can of course be modified to change gender, but she has asked for this male one.
- Maybe after some months the human host can't help but feel a little more animal-like. "Wheelchairs" with legs can be seen around, but they usually don't look so much like an animal.
Today there are already some prototipes, like:
http://www.canada.com/topics/technology/science/story.html?id=69422534-9663-4e4d-b68c-cc8a6ca808d9
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/07/honda_walker_exoskeleton/
So I presume in 2090 they will be quite refined.
- Eventually I may even write a small story about such robot and the human girl.
- This whole idea of a robotic lowbody was partially inspired by an image by Karabiner-DEN done in year 2001, that is StarTrek-inspired, that shows a Borg-like queen that looks like a foxtaur (that is a robot seen in another story) that has her upper body attached to a lower body (like in the starTrek movie the queen attaches a human head):


http://orcas.vclart.net/vcl/Artists/Den/KarTune3B.JPG


More notes coming from discussions with Scale (some ideas are from him):

- A human spine may be unfit to transmit all the data such lowbody collects from its skin, legs, etc. But the human brain is quite flexible and it can learn lot of new things, its maps are dynamic and flexible, and they can grow and (the maps for the human legs become used for the lowbody, but maybe more map space is necessary, despite the lower resolution, the decreased flexibility, etc). So in the end I don't know if this is possible. Probably it's better to think about this robot more like a nice looking four-legged "wheelchair" able to walk on difficult grounds too, instead of a flexible and harmonious taur cyborg.
- The only link coming out of the skin of the human host is the mechanical one. Data goes throw simple inductive sub-dermal data link, connected to a small implant near the spine, so it's the data link is invisible.
- The design of the legs in the sketch is naive (and is probably based on an old Filmation cartoon, about a robotic horse named 30-30), hopefully future images will show a more real-looking design :-) Any suggestion for a source to "copy" from is very welcome (for example hi-teach japan designs, 3D images from video games, etc).
- The robot in the image doesn't look much flexible, for example it's not easy for the human to touch the fore feet on the floor (but the joint can rotate forward too, so it's possible, despite being not comfy). So it looks more like the rigid classical centaurs. More degrees of freedom can be added to the robot, but this robot is from 2090 and not from 2300, so it's not too much refined. And more degrees of freedom add weight, complexity and costs, and such added complexity decreases reliability too. (And a successive model, created in 2250, with micro-tech, may be more refined and more complex than this one, with more flexibility, etc.).
- Feces can go into a chemistry chamber into the robot, but this is only for special situations. Most of the times when possible they are expelled from the "anus", covered by a thin polymeric gel membrane (as in gorillas) to keep hygiene better (chakasa too produce such membranes).
- Bumps and falls are probably the most dangerous things for the human host. It's usually avoided avoiding the faster gaits, with the dynamic self-balance of the robot, and keeping the robot very light (it may weight as low as 50-70 kg only). Sill a fall may kill the human, break her spine, etc.
- When the robot is about to stop or change direction makes the muscles of the human back become a little more tensed, to keep her from bending or twisting.

Is the choice of a animal-looking robot just a cosmetic choice (compared to a not animal looking robot)?

Surely for the person attached to the robot in the pre-chakasa setting it's not just a cosmetic choice. It changes the situation:
- It gives physical contraints, because for example if you want to create somethign that looks like a skunk you can't give it five legs.
- In the pre-chakasa setting there are some robots around, so people aren't much scared of them, but giving to some of them the look of an animal changes the attitude. This isn't a robot used as a cop or by an army as weapon (despite its generator can produce enough electricity to be interesting, and its paws can be used as weapons too), it's not a stocky robot worker used to build streets and houses, it's not even meant to be the body of an autonomous AI. And it's not just a "wheelchair with legs", it's a way to enjoy life even if you miss your legs, and to show she is a furry-fan. So the animal shape so it's also a statement of purposes and attitude. You can hopefully go in a school with this robot, while a military robot or a too much insect-like robot may be refused.
- This taur body is able to make sex as a male. So its purpose borders with furry sex and zoophily, etc. I don't think you can put a fully functional sex on a insect-like or neutral-looking body. This robot is clearly modeled on the shape of a male mammal, so letting it have a sex&gender is at least possible (even if a little unusual). The owner wants to have a good life, to be able to walk in seawter and to maybe even to cross a small river swimming, and not just to replace legs with something able to walk on tiles.

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