bots IN BRIEF
ROBOT SPACE BALLS
DARPA has at its disposal millions of dollars to try to make science
fiction a reality, and those little SPHERES robots are about to get some
pretty sweet upgrades.
First, DARPA wants the SPHERES robots to be able to work outside
the comfortable environment of the ISS. They’ll have access to their own
little airlock, and they’ll need to be able to wander around outside semiautonomously and not get lost. To help them do that, the bots will be
able to navigate based on their position and orientation relative to
another object which may itself be moving.
The coolest part, however, is something DARPA calls
“Electromagnetic Formation Flight and Power Transfer.” The goal of this
program is to demonstrate relative stationkeeping, maneuvering, and attitude control between two SPHERES using steerable
electromagnetic dipoles at a distance on the order of decimeters to meters. So basically, by manipulating internal electromagnetic coils, the SPHERES robots will be able to attract and repel each other in specific directions, moving without the aid of
their CO2 thrusters. DARPA figures that while they’re doing that, they might as well be able to “demonstrate wireless power
transfer through resonant inductive coupling.” By the way, DARPA will give you a cool $1 million to make it happen.Apply here:
KICKIN’ IT WITH ZIGGY
Ziggy the Combot and San Francisco 49ers’ kicker Joe Nedney took each
other on in a place kicking contest recently.
It’s worth noting that Ziggy was actually able to kick the ball over 60 yards
(repeatedly) in practice, off of a concrete surface with no headwind. The grass
surface of the football field was much softer than concrete, meaning that a significant portion of the energy released by the pneumatic arm went to driving
the robot down into the ground as opposed to into the football. That’s the thing
about robots … They work great in the lab, and then all kinds of “stuff” happens
when you get them outside.
Suffice it to say that Ziggy will undoubtedly be up for a rematch next year.
Meantime, while we humans may not be able to match Ziggy in sheer
power, we’ve still got adaptability going for us. So for now, we’re still in
charge. Don’t forget, however, Ziggy can toss 340 pound robots like
they’re rag dolls.
22 SERVO 06.2010