by David Geer
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chiara, The Evolving
Chiara is a six-legged, arachnid/crab-like robot with a pincer arm that was
born from the mind of Carnegie Mellon University Professor Dave Touretzky,
along with PhD student Ethan Tira-Thompson and mechanical engineer/
product designer Gaku Sato. It was first constructed as a prototype in the
spring of 2008. Since the first two design iterations, RoPro Design, Inc.,
released a production model. Prof. Touretzky and Ethan continue to work
on the next iteration of the robot.
My fascination with the robot is that its imitation of life is quite realistic. The robot can raise its front section with its two front legs and additional pincer
equipped arm, using the front legs as additional
arms. The mechanical body design is actually the
craftsmanship of Gaku.
As recounted to me by Gaku, Professor
Touretzky took interest in devising an educational
Rear view close-up of Chiara with battery.
10 SERVO 12.2009
robot to be made available to other robotics
teaching institutions. The end product would
be a fully developed and tested robot available
assembled, but that students could modify and
use as a platform for writing code.
Prof. Touretzky and Ethan first approached the
project with a wheel driven model in mind, using
their Tekkotsu software framework for intelligent
mobile robots (see
www.tekkotsu.org). But for
Chiara, they agreed on a hexapod robot which
would present greater complexity and more
opportunity for varied development and
In addition, the roboticists approached both
the intelligence and mechanical range angles,
with capacity and power as high priorities. They
selected a 1 GHz Pico-ITX processor brain, four
3DOF (degree of freedom) middle and rear legs,
two 4DOF front legs, and a 6DOF arm with
gripper (the aforementioned pincer arm).
Likewise, Prof. Touretzky and Ethan adopted a
multi-directional IR sensor and a pan/tilt webcam
for full vision and a range of sensory input.
At this precise tipping point in the robot’s
ascent to life, Prof. Touretzky and Ethan brought
Gaku on board to complete the design and build
the robot based on the roboticist’s fundamental
electronics and general design criteria. As Gaku
worked out the physical design that would
meet the capability requirements decided upon,