14 SERVO 08.2014
DARPA held a briefing recently to discuss the forthcoming DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals. It's been about
six months since the DRC Trials were held in Miami, FL, so we've been expecting an update and DARPA delivered.
Program manager Gill Pratt announced the Finals will be held in California next June, mainly because DARPA
decided to give teams some extra time.
The DRC Finals will be held at the Fairplex in Pomona, CA, on June 5-6, 2015. This is about six months later
than originally planned, but teams will get additional funding to make up for it. Eleven teams are prequalified for
the Finals, based on their performance during the Trials.The prize is still $2 million to the winning team. Scoring
will first emphasize task completion and then speed second. Each team will get two chances to complete the
course, and DARPA will score the best run.
Origami — the art of folding pieces of paper to create
shapes — is an appealing concept for robotics because you can
transform two-dimensional materials into three-dimensional
structures that are inherently flexible. What's more, structures
that fold and unfold enable all kinds of interesting functionality
that would otherwise only be possible with systems that are
much more complex.
This approach can be particularly useful in designing wheels
for robots, and two research groups are doing just that.
One of the groups is from Seoul National University's
BioRobotics Laboratory, led by Professor Kyu-Jin Cho.
Researchers there have designed a clever robotic wheel based on
one of the most famous origami patterns: the magic ball.
The wheel they created can change its radius by deforming
its shape. This is a useful trick to be able to perform, since a
wheel with a large radius is better at climbing over things, while a
wheel with a smaller radius is better at squeezing under things.
The wheel and hooks together can deform from a minimum
diameter of 55 millimeters to a maximum diameter of 120
millimeters, which is a substantial range — especially considering
the transformation only requires one single actuator per wheel.
In another project, researchers at the Harvard Microrobotics
Lab led by Professor Robert Wood, teamed up with the group
from Seoul National University to design origami wheels that can
automatically expand and shrink.
The goal in this case wasn't just allowing the robot to climb
over some things and squeeze under other things. Since there's a
direct relationship between the radius of a wheel and the torque
that it can exert, a wheel that can deform can also act as an
automatic continuously variable transmission.
Photos courtesy of Harvard Microrobotics Lab/Seoul National
the origami wheel in low speed, high torque configuration.