bots IN BRIEF
SERVO 01.2017 31
Chen Li was a researcher at Berkeley’s Poly-PEDAL Lab and Biomimetic Millisystems Lab, where he gave little legged
robots cockroach-inspired shells to help them push through
obstacles. Li now has his own lab at Johns Hopkins University:
the Terradynamics Lab which studies “movement science at the
interface of biology, robotics, and physics.” At IROS 2016, he
presented a paper demonstrating a new trick for legged robots
with shells: Ground-based dynamic self-righting, or flipping over
using wing covers like a real insect does.
WALK WHAT WAY?
One of the many things that makes humanoid walking tricky is the fact hat when we walk, we’re off balance almost all of the time. For some
silly reason, our legs are positioned to the left and right when we walk
forward, which means we’re constantly rocking sideways while also leaning
in the direction we’re going. Most robots don’t try to walk like this, and
the few that do tend to be very complex and difficult to manage.
At UCLA, Dennis Hong’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory
(RoMeLa) has come up with a robot design that’s a novel new take on
bipedal walking. By doing away with anthropomorphic design and turning a
humanoid robot sideways, they’ve been able to create a stable and agile
bipedal design that’s simple and cheap at the same time.
“Instead of mimicking human walking,” Hong told us, “we provide an
elegant solution by proposing a novel configuration utilizing ‘mechanical
intelligence’ for speed, stability, and simplicity, enabling practical and
effective robot mobility for real life applications.”
Apparently, once Hong and his students (including Sepehr Ghassemi,
Jeffrey Yu, and Joshua Hooks) came up with the concept for a sideways
walking robot, designing, building, and testing the robot only took two
weeks. The robot is called NABiRoS, which stands for “
Non-Anthropomorphic Bipedal Robotic System,” and its non-anthropomorphicness actually makes it better at navigating some
otherwise tricky human environments.
Photo courtesy of RoMeLa.
Photo courtesy of Terradynamics Lab/JHU.