by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jul 14th 2011 7:43am
The phrase "re-inventing the wheel" is often used to suggest something negative -- as in wasted effort. But, perhaps re-inventing the wheel can be useful in certain ways. TechnoMage points us to this story of a grad student at Bradley University, Curtis Boirum, coming up with a neat hemispherical omnidirectional gimbaled wheel (or HOG wheel). A what, you ask? Well, check out the video below to get a pretty good idea of how it works and what it does:
As you can see, it's basically a rubber hemisphere that spins and tilts, and you can do some useful things with it, especially when it comes to fast maneuvers at high speeds. You could definitely see that being useful. Where this gets really interesting is that it's not just "reinventing the wheel" as in the normal wheel, but, in this case, it's reinventing this HOG wheel, too. While some reports are calling this "novel," Boirum discovered, after he'd already invented this himself, that others had done so decades ago... but nothing much had come from it. There's even a 1938 issue of Mechanics and Handicraft Magazine that featured a really similar device on its cover:
This whole story struck me as interesting in a number of ways. First, just the very idea of reinventing the way a wheel/drive system works compared to the conventional method is pretty cool. But it strikes me as even more interesting to see that Boirum basically reinvented this very system, entirely independently, even though it had already been invented before. We've talked in the past about the importance of independent invention, and this seems like yet another case of it.
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