bots IN BRIEF
A BATTERY OF BALANCE
Meet Switchblade from the UCSD (University of California
San Diego) Coordinated Robotics Lab. Switchblade uses the same
basic principle of movable mass to climb and balance as UCSD’s other
robot iLean, except Switchblade alters its center of gravity by locating
its battery packs out on a rotating boom. iLean maneuvers stairs by
climbing up its own body, then shifting its center of mass from the
bottom of one stair to the top of another. (This is one of those things
that’s futile to explain, so just go watch the video at www.botjunkie
It’s an exceptionally cool idea to take advantage of batteries in
this way. Many robots use battery packs located close to the ground to
passively stabilize themselves, but it’s a brilliant idea to use the heaviest
and bulkiest parts of a robot to actually enable motion.
Next up for Switchblade is the addition of extendable segments to the boom arms, as well as some manipulators
to let it do stuff.
Switchblade is a nimble treaded rover that can pop wheelies and overcome obstacles nearly as high as it is long.
The key to its agility is the fact that it can “throw its weight around”, by actuating a heavy boom (containing the vehicle’s
batteries) in order to reposition its center of mass favorably — which it can do quite quickly. The current prototype was
built in partnership with National Instruments, and is built around the NI sbRIO 9602 with the control design performed
Check http://renaissance.ucsd.edu/CoordinatedRoboticsLab/Switchblade.html for further info.
EYEBOT CAN SEE YOU
One of the major disadvantages of flying robots is that they’re generally useless when they’re not in the air. Plus, the
amount of time they can spend in the air is severely limited by their capacity for fuel. Plus, more fuel means more weight,
means bigger engines, means more fuel, and so on. EPFL has
developed a robot called Eyebot that — while based on the
familiar quad-rotor helicopter design — includes an innovative
extra feature: the ability to stick to ceilings with a magnet.
This gives Eyebot the capability to loiter indefinitely in
advantageous positions while providing surveillance with a
pan-and-tilt camera system. It can autonomously attach and
detach itself from ceilings; it uses simple optical flow analysis
to detect drift; and has infrared sensors to avoid obstacles.
Apparently, the designers envision the Eyebot stationing
itself on a ceiling with a bunch of its friends and firing LASERS
Okay, not really. But the Eyebot will include a laser pointer
with which it can locate and illuminate predefined targets,
either helping you find your suitcase or, doing other things.
Go to http://lis.epfl.ch/?content=research/projects
/Eyebot/ for more details.
22 SERVO 10.2009