Sprawling Wheel Leg Robot Crawls and Climbs.
The latest version of this skittery little sprawling robot can crawl like a turtle.
We’re always impressed by the way David Zarrouk (a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev by way of UC Berkeley’s Biomimetic Mill systems Lab) manages to extract a ton of functionality from the absolute minimum of hardware in his robots. In the past, we’ve seen clever designs like a steerable robot that only uses a single motor and a multi-jointed robot arm that uses a travelling motor to actuate all of its degrees of freedom.
At the 2018 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Brisbane, Zarrouk presented an update to STAR, the Sprawl-Tuned Autonomous Robot that we first wrote about in 2013. Called Rising STAR, or RSTAR, it takes the sprawling wheel-leg mobility and adds another degree of freedom that allows the body of the robot to move separately from the legs, changing its centre of mass to help it climb over obstacles.
RSTAR is the latest in Zarrouk’s series of sprawling robots, designed to handle all kinds of terrain obstacles while minimizing the cost of transport. “Sprawl” in this context refers to the robot’s legs, which are angled (adjustably) downwards and outwards from the body. RSTAR has an added degree of freedom in that its body is able to change its location relative to the legs, altering the robot’s centre of mass.
It seems like a simple change, but it enables a bunch of new behaviours—not only can the robot climb over larger obstacles without flipping over, but it can also climb vertically up closely spaced walls and “crawl” through narrow gaps by adopting a legged walking gait.
While the adjustable centre of mass helps keep the robot more stable, as the video shows flipping over can actually be useful, since it enables the robot to switch between faster and more efficient round wheels and more capable spoke wheels (whegs). RSTAR’s top speed is about 1 m/s on hard flat surfaces, although its turtle gait means that it can handle extremely soft or
granular surfaces (like thick mud or sand) without getting stuck.
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