bots IN BRIEF
22 SERVO 05.2015
It’s not particularly difficult to make a robot that looks like an animal. However, it’s much harder to make a robot that acts like an animal. At EPFL,
a group led by Prof. Auke Jan Ijspeert has been working on swimming robots
for over a decade,using the salamander as a model. Pleurobot looks like the
most accurate and lifelike one yet.
The key to Pleurobot’s lifelike motion is its design, which was based on
3D X-ray movies of a real salamander walking and swimming. Tracking up to
64 points on the animal’s skeleton, the group was able to record three-dimensional movements of bones in great detail. Using optimization on all the
recorded postures for the three gaits, they deduced the number and position
of active and passive joints needed for the robot to reproduce the animal
movements with reasonable accuracy in three dimensions.
By design, Pleurobot provides torque control for all the active joints
which enables its creators to apply neural network models of the spinal cord
neural circuits (called Central Pattern Generators) of the salamander, and to
activate virtual muscles to replicate the recorded animal movements along
with realistic viscoelastic properties. This is particularly important in order to
get a fundamental understanding of vertebrate motor control.
In other words, the joints and muscles of the robotic salamander respond
in the same way that the joints and muscles of a real salamander do. This
means that applying neural patterns that real salamanders use for walking to
the robot salamander will — or at least should — cause the robot to walk in
the same way. It seems to be working rather well.Me
Pleurobot may not be the fastest of walkers, but its low center of gravity makes it
exceptionally stable. Plus, it’s also multimodal: It can walk on land, swim under water, and transition
seamlessly between the two. This makes it ideal for obligatory search-and-rescue applications,
although for aquatic operations the robot needs to wear a waterproof swimsuit.
MORPHEUS-ING INTO VR Sony is planning to launch its virtual-reality headset in the global market next year. The gaming and electronics company
announced at the recent Game Developers Conference that its VR
system — nicknamed Project Morpheus — will debut in the first half
of 2016. Sony Corp originally unveiled a prototype of the headset at
last year’s gathering of video game developers. The headset works in
tandem with Sony’s PlayStation 4 console and camera by covering
user’s vision and simulating virtual worlds onscreen.
While the VR headset prototype largely resembles the prototype
introduced previously, the new version redistributes weight toward
the back of the user’s head and features a screen that can slide back
and forth to accommodate eyeglasses.
The new prototype also features a larger 5. 7 inch OLED screen
that displays nearly a 100 degree field-of-view, and is capable of
rendering imagery at up to 120 frames per second. There are nine
LED lights on the headset’s exterior that are to track movement. No
price was announced.