Robo Roach Sets Speed Record
Okay, it looks pretty much like all the other roachbots out there
and doesn't do very much, but you have to be impressed by the X2-
VelociRoACH developed at UC Berkeley (
developers say it's the world's fastest legged robot of its size,
meaning that it can be trounced by things like Boston Dynamics'
Cheetah, which speeds along at 28. 3 mph ( 45. 5 kph). Cheetah is
huge and complicated, however, whereas the X2 weighs only 1.9 oz
( 54 g) and is only 4 in ( 10. 4 cm) long, but still zips across the floor
at 11 mph ( 17. 6 kph). Given that the X2's stride length is fixed, the
only way to increase its speed was to make its motors run faster.
The current design has a stride frequency of 45 Hz (i.e., 45
stride cycles per second), which is currently its structural limit. To
keep pieces from flying off at such a high rate, it was fitted with
fiberglass legs (instead of rubber), ripstop nylon joints, and carbon
fiber reinforcement where needed.
We should note that it isn't completely useless; it has been
modified for use as a launch pad for Berkeley's H2Bird ornithopter
micro aerial vehicle which can't get off the ground unless you
somehow get it up to a speed of 1.3 mps. To see that happen, just
search "h2bird" at You Tube. The X- 2 VelociRoACH launches an H2Bird ornithopter.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
www.darpa.mil) has about $3 billion in
research and development money to spread around
every year, and much of it goes into robotic research.
In the past, most of the funding has flowed to big
defense industry players, but that is changing via the
agency's Robotics Fast Track (RFT) program.
According to program manager, Mark Micire, "We
spend too much time creating three to four year
solutions for six month problems. We want this new
generation of robotics innovators to see DARPA as a
partner that can help them develop breakthrough
technologies in the areas that personally interest
them, and help translate their ideas and know-how
into game-changing capabilities. We're eager to
pioneer this new approach which could lead to rapid, marked improvements in national security as a whole."
In practical terms, that means you can apply for one of DARPA's $150,000 grants if you can come up with
innovations that address military objectives or other national security issues. The agency is working with the
Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF,
foundation.org) to link to smaller organizations that aren't
used to dealing with the government.
You say you don't have the tools and facilities to bring your ideas to fruition? No worries! DARPA is
cooperating with the growing number of TechShop (
www.techshop.ws) facilities, where members have access
to a fabrication and prototype studio, CAD systems, sophisticated tools, and a wide range of instructional
classes. Membership in the San Francisco, CA location, for example, will run you as little as $125/month or
$1,395/year. (You don't have to be a member to take classes.) To apply for the RFT program, just log onto
r ft.osr foundation.org/apply.html. You could be on your way to becoming a successful defense contractor.
A TechShop facility where you might turn your robotic innovations
into a fat government contract.
8 SERVO 09.2015