Hybrid Helicopter-Car Robot Drives Up Walls
Boston Dynamics via Youtube
Animals got it going on. They fly better than humans, swim better, run faster, and hop higher. So it's no surprise that scientists are building robots modeled after creatures from the animal kingdom. Here are 10 of our favorites. Meet Spot, a four-legged robotic dog that can run over terrain, climb stairs and can handle a kick to the ribs without a flinch. Google-owned Boston Dynamics’ robot uses an electrical/hydraulic system and is designed for both indoor and outdoor operation.
BionicKangaroo is a robot developed by automation company Festo to technologically reproduce the unique way that a kangaroo moves. Just like a kangaroo, the robot recovers energy when jumping, stores it and efficiently uses it for the next jump.
A turtle-shaped robot named Beachbot, created by Disney Research labs, uses a retractable rake and onboard sensors to etch elaborate lines and designs in the sand.
The Great Elephant robot, which makes the French city of Nantes its home, is made from 45 tons of reclaimed wood and steel. The mechanical elephant can carry up to 49 passengers at a time on a 45-minute walk.
Dynamic Robotics Lab/Oregon State University
The Atrias robot is modeled after birds, which are arguably the fastest and most agile two-legged runners in the world. The robot, developed by researchers at the Oregon State University’s Dynamic Robotics Laboratory, has impeccable balance and can withstand kicks, punches and even a barrage of dodge balls.
The ACM-R5H robot, developed by Japan-based HiBot, is intended for inspection and search operations in underwater environments. In the front unit, a wireless camera is mounted to capture images.
German robotics company Festo is known for its animal-inspired robots. One of their latest creations is BionicAnt, a colony of small robots that work together to accomplish tasks, similar to how real insect societies work together toward a common goal.
U.S. Navy / Edward Guttierrez III
The Navy recently deployed a robotic shark called the GhostSwimmer unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), which is five feet long and 100 pounds. It is based on biomimetic design principles and can be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, as well as hull inspections of friendly ships.
Boston Dynamics’ Cheetah robot is capable of running faster than any human, with speeds reaching 28.3 mph. It also has an articulated back that flexes back and forth on each step, mimicking the movement of a cheetah.
Like people, mobile robots encounter a range of terrain and obstacles. Building an efficient machine that can deal with uneven surfaces and get around, over or under obstructions is something that vexes many roboticists.
But not scientists at Disney Research and the Swiss institute ETH Zurich. They've teamed up to build a hybrid helicopter-car robot that can move over a variety of ground surfaces and also climb up walls.
The VertiGo robot has a lightweight carbon-fiber baseplate, 3D-printed parts, four skinny wheels and two propellers that can tilt to drive the little robot forward or up.
Robots able to scale walls typically rely on some kind of adhesion technology (typically in an effort to mimic that versatile lizard, the gecko, which can cling to any surface, including glass). But adhesion works well on some surfaces such as those that are smooth and terribly on others, especially those that are rough.
VertiGo doesn’t use adhesion. Instead, its tilting helicopter-like blades spin hard enough to push the robot against the wall, defying gravity. It can traverse smooth surfaces just fine, but also does well on rough ones, too, and even curvy surfaces.
IEEE Spectrum writer asked Disney’s Paul Beardsley how the company would use a robot like VertiGo. He said:
“… I am not able to say specifics as you can understand. But just speaking in general, one can imagine that robots with lighting effects could be useful for entertainment effects or for wall games.”
Watch the video below to see the little guy in action. It's pretty impressive.