Robot that jumps like a grasshopper, rolls like a ball developed

December 5th, 2008 - 2:37 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Dec 5 (ANI): A student at the University of Bath has developed a robot that can jump like a grasshopper and roll like a ball.

The researcher hopes that the creation, which can jump over obstacles and roll over smoother surfaces, could be used for space exploration or land survey work in the future.

The Jollbot, created by Rhodri Armour, a PhD student from the University of Bath, is shaped like a spherical cage, which can roll in any direction, giving it the manoeuvrability of wheels without the problem of overturning or getting stuck in potholes.

The robot is also flexible and small, weighing less than a kilogramme, meaning its not damaged when landing after jumping and is therefore less expensive than conventional exploration robots.

Others in the past have made robots that jump and robots that roll; but weve made the first robot that can do both, Armour said.

In nature there are two main types of jumping: hopping, like a kangaroo, which uses its fine control and direct muscle action to propel it along; and pause and leap, such as in a grasshopper, which stores muscle energy in spring-like elements and rapidly releases it to make the jump.

Weve made a robot that jumps in a similar way to the grasshopper, but uses electrical motors to slowly store the energy needed to leap in its springy skeleton.

Before jumping, the robot squashes its spherical shape. When it is ready, it releases the stored energy all at once to jump to heights of up to half a metre, Armour added.

Armour, who has just submitted his PhD thesis, took measurements using a high-speed camera to analyse how the robot jumped and to predict how it might behave in a low-gravity environment, such as in space.

Future prototypes could include a stretchy skin covered in solar cells on the outside of the robot, so it could power itself, and robotic control sensors to enable it to sense its environment, he said.

The components of the robot were made by rapid prototyping technology, similar to that used by the RepRap machine pioneered by the University, which builds parts by printing layers of plastic on top of each other to produce a 3D object. (ANI)

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