AI News, March of the SandBots

March of the SandBots

To Probe Further SandBot’s shape and character are inspired by many different animals—and several humans, too.

Full, an integrative biologist who heads the Poly-PEDAL Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, contributed many of the principles of bio-inspired motion that underpin the RHexand RiSEprojects.

Cutkosky, a mechanical engineering professor at Stanford University, also helped design these running and climbing robots.

MIT ‘cheetah’ robot rivals running animals in efficiency

A 70-pound “cheetah” robot designed by MIT researchers may soon outpace its animal counterparts in running efficiency: In treadmill tests, the researchers have found that the robot — about the size and weight of an actual cheetah — wastes very little energy as it trots continuously for up to an hour and a half at 5 mph.

Robots such as Boston Dynamic’s “Big Dog” carry heavy gasoline engines and hydraulic transmissions, while other electrically powered robots require large battery packs, gears, force sensors and springs to coordinate the joints in a robot’s leg.

But one of the reasons why people think it’s impossible to make an electric robot that does this is because efficiencies have been pretty bad.” Kim adds that part of the challenge in powering running machines with electric motors is that such robots require a flexible response upon impact, and high power, torque and efficiency — characteristics that have historically been difficult to achieve with electric motors.

Many researchers have used springs and dampers in series with motors to protect the robot from forceful impacts during locomotion, but it’s difficult to control a spring’s stiffness and damping ratio — which can be a problem if a robot has to traverse disparate surfaces, such as asphalt and sand.

“[The motor] regenerates energy that would have been lost.” Kim adds that mounting motors and gears at the hip joint would also reduce energy loss by minimizing leg inertia: Some legged robots are designed with motors and gearboxes at each joint along a leg, which can be cumbersome and can lose more energy at every impact.

“If you design the motor properly, it’s more powerful, simpler robotics.” Ron Fearing, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California at Berkeley, says that simple springs can work well in small robots running on smooth terrain.

“By combining these with the regenerative motor drive system, so that mechanical energy from the leg can recharge the battery, that in my opinion has made a huge difference in efficiency, [and] an important step forward in making efficient, electrically driven running robots.” In addition to Kim and Lang, the paper’s co-authors include Sangok Seok, Albert Wang, Meng Yee Chuah and David Otten, all of MIT.

CLB March 14, 2013 So little attention paid to actual biology --the spot pattern sticker on the head is of a leopard or jaguar, slower/heavier felines Ash March 15, 2013 Cheetah and other animals change configuration from walking to running.

This robot just shows fast walk in order to run it needs to change the configuration of how legs are used otherwise we have already seen the maximum speed limit DittoDan September 15, 2014 Do they have a video of it running?

Robotic insect mimics Nature’s extreme moves

An international team of Seoul National University and Harvard researchers looked to water strider insects to develop robots that jump off water's surface (SEOUL and BOSTON) — The concept of walking on water might sound supernatural, but in fact it is a quite natural phenomenon.

“The water strider is capable of doing all these things flawlessly.” The water strider, whose legs have slightly curved tips, employs a rotational leg movement to aid it its takeoff from the water’s surface, discovered co-senior author Ho-Young Kim who is Professor in SNU’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Director of SNU’s Micro Fluid Mechanics Lab.

Kim, a former Wyss Institute Visiting Scholar, worked with the study’s co-first author Eunjin Yang, a graduate researcher at SNU’s Micro Fluid Mechanics lab, to collect water striders and take extensive videos of their movements to analyze the mechanics that enable the insects to skim on and jump off water’s surface.

“Using its legs to push down on water, the natural water strider exerts the maximum amount of force just below the threshold that would break the water’s surface,” said the study’s co-first author Je-Sung Koh, Ph.D., who was pursuing his doctoral degree at SNU during the majority of this research and is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wyss Institute and the Harvard Paulson School.

“It is a form of embodied or physical intelligence, and we can learn from this kind of physical intelligence to build robots that are similarly capable of performing extreme maneuvers without highly-complex controls or artificial intelligence.” The robotic insect was built using a “torque reversal catapult mechanism” inspired by the way a flea jumps, which allows this kind of extreme locomotion without intelligent control.

“The resulting robotic insects can achieve the same momentum and height that could be generated during a rapid jump on firm ground – but instead can do so on water – by spreading out the jumping thrust over a longer amount of time and in sustaining prolonged contact with the water’s surface,” said Wood.

“This international collaboration of biologists and roboticists has not only looked into nature to develop a novel, semi-aquatic bioinspired robot that performs a new extreme form of robotic locomotion, but has also provided us with new insights on the natural mechanics at play in water striders,” said Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D.

Brawn or Brains? Researchers Push the Limits of Legged Robots

Credit: Courtesy of Boston Dynamics (c) 2008 Editor's note: Legged robots have the ability to follow troops on long journeys across extremely difficult terrain.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has for years explored the possibility of using legged robots to carry troop supplies where wheeled robots dare not tread (particularly through narrow mountain passes or up across uneven terrain).

The 165-pound (75-kilogram) BigDog represents a major step forward for legged locomotion, a problem whose complexity had frustrated engineers, even prompting some to believe it was impossible to solve.

Both robots were 'dynamically stable' because at least three of their four legs touched the ground at all times, reducing the likelihood that the robot would fall, says Singh, who contributed to the Dante 1 mission.

The biggest challenge in making BigDog work is 'you don't have one joint per leg—you've got four of them,' says Robert Mandelbaum, the program manager in DARPA's Information Processing Techniques (IPTO) and Tactical Technology offices who is in charge of the agency's biorobotics program, which includes BigDog.

'There are fundamental research challenges that lie in all of these areas, [such as] whether the system can differentiate tall grass from a barbed wire fence, plan its path accordingly, and then follow along that planned path even when the terrain is uneven and difficult,' he adds.

(Walking on carpet is a lot different than trying to navigate a slippery tile floor.) 'Look at a gazelle—all of its software is in its brain,' says James Kuffner, an associate professor at C.M.U.'s Robotics Institute, one of six teams of robotics researchers (along with the Florida University System's Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, M.I.T., Stanford University, the University of Southern California and the University of Pennsylvania) that DARPA asked to improve on the same basic LittleDog quadruped robot platform, built for them by Boston Dynamics.

Using onboard sensors that indicate whether it is tilting left or right or is otherwise unbalanced, BigDog's software checks its weight distribution and relies on its other legs to regain its balance.

In addition to controlling BigDog's joints, other major challenges are making the robot durable (so it doesn't break down in the field), efficient (it needs to be able to carry its own fuel and/or batteries in addition to military equipment), and quiet (its two-stroke engine is noticeably loud and may require mufflers).

A handful of other robotics researchers—including those at Japan's Kyoto Institute of Technology—have over the past decade been developing quadruped robots, but none appear to have BigDog's high levels of adaptability, balance and perseverance nor LittleDog's intelligence and awareness.

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