MIT’s Robotic Cheetah is Getting Even Scarier

Robotic Cheetah get's upgraded bounding algorithm

Researchers over at MIT are hard at work upgrading their Robotic Cheetah. They are developing an algorithm for bounding movement, after researching how real cheetahs run in the wild.

Mach 2 is fully electric and battery-powered, can currently run at speeds of 10MPH (however they’re predicting it will be able to reach 30MPH in the future), and can even jump over obstacles 33cm tall.

We originally saw the first robotic Cheetah from Boston Dynamics in cooperation with DARPA two years ago — it could run faster than any human alive (28.3MPH) but in its tests it was tethered to its hydraulic power pack and running on a treadmill. It’s unclear if MIT’s Cheetah is a direct descendant from that one, but they are both supported by DARPA.

The technology in this project is nothing short of amazing — its electric motors are actually a custom part designed by one of the professors of Electrical Engineering at MIT, [Jeffrey Lang]. In order for the robot to run smoothly, its bounding algorithm is sending commands to each leg to exert a very precise amount of force during each footstep, just to ensure it maintains the set speed.

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THP Semifinalist: Stubby, the Adorable Hexapod

 

hexy

After talking with a few of the judges for The Hackaday Prize, documentation will be a large factor in determining who wins and takes a trip to space, and who is left with their feet safely planted on the ground. Stubby the Hexapod is one of the most well documented projects in the running. There are already two hardware revisions for the walking mechanism, several board layouts for the controller, and more project log entries than you can shake a stick at.

Stubby is the brainchild of [The Big One] (a.k.a. [Wyatt] with [Warren], [Princess Sparkle], and [exot] filling out the rest of the team). The project originally began as an educational robotics project meant for teaching [Wyatt]‘s kids the ins and outs of robotics and electronics. He’s doing this by developing an open source hexapod robot platform, complete with a frame, electronics board, and a lot of interesting code driving 18 hobby servos.

The frame for Stubby’s first hardware revision is rather interesting; it’s able to be reproduced with nothing more than a scroll saw. The latest revision is a complete rethinking of hexapod locomotion using 2DOF legs and a more mechanical gait.

Being completely open source and very well documented, you can already make your own Stubby hexapod with a scroll saw and the files on [Wyatt]‘s site. If 3D printing is more your thing, there’s also a few files to help you with that.

You can check out a few videos of the different Stubby revisions below:


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

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Tricking Tinder With A 3D Printed Finger

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Online matchmaking has taken the internet by storm as mobile dating applications like Tinder attempt to take the work out of locating a soul mate. As of mid-2014, Tinder is rumored to have around 10 million daily active users making it a prime target for automated spam bots. The real spammers surely use coded attacks, but this robot is a fun example of a hardware-based attack. [Andrew] built it to be an automatic heart-shaped, button presser.

The device began as a single finger robot-hand project that was inspired by ‘InMoov’, which as their website states is “the first life-size humanoid robot you can 3D print and animate.” An Arduino Uno and servo motor laid the foundation for the system. After which, the joints of the 3D printed finger were assembled in place so that a touchscreen stylus could be attached. Once coded, the little robot was able to ‘like’ a new profile every 4 seconds. This adds up to approximately 900 likes per hour.

The project is cute, and shows one way that fake profiles can be elevated on the Tinder platform. An article written on Symantec’s blog describes a few other instances of spammers flirting with you via the Android app. This post is a continuation of an article released a year prior, yet Tinder has not addressed the issues relating to fake profiles since then.

Let’s try to focus in on the good. With a bit of additional ingenuity, this device could be transformed into a love searching robot that could choose between people. Get a camera hooked up with a face-recognition program, and add some user preferences so that the robot isn’t just hitting ‘like’ over and over, and we might be able to get some interesting research done. Still, it feels like it would be better to go meet people face-to-face.

Check out the video of the bot in action after the break, then let us know what other silly things you could do by targeting different apps.

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Stewart Platform Ball Bearing Balancer

PID balancing a ball on a plate

For their Mechanical Engineering senior design project at San Jose State University, [Tyler Kroymann] and [Robert Dee] designed and built a racing motion simulator. Which is slightly out of the budget of most hackers, so before they went full-scale, a more affordable Arduino powered Stewart platform proof of concept was built. Stewart platforms typically use six electric or hydraulic linear actuators to provide motion in six degrees of freedom (6 DOF), surge (X), sway (Y), heave (Z), pitch, roll, and yaw. With a simple software translation matrix, to account for the angular displacement of the servo arm, you can transform the needed linear motions into PWM signals for standard hobby servos.

The 6 DOF platform, with the addition of a resistive touch screen, also doubled as a side project for their mechatronic control systems class. However, in this configuration the platform was constrained to just pitch and roll. The Arduino reads the resistive touch screen and registers the ball bearing’s location. Then a PID compares this to the target location generating an error vector. The error vector is used to find an inverse kinematic solution which causes the actuators to move the ball towards the target location. This whole process is repeated 50 times a second. The target location can be a pre-programmed or controlled using the analog stick on a Wii nunchuck.

Watch the ball bearing seek the target location after the break.

Thanks to [Toby] for sending in this tip.

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Pool Cleaning Robot Rebuild Works Like A 3 Dimensional Roomba

Pool Cleaning Robot

Pools are great – Cleaning them, not so much. [Davide Gironi] had a pool cleaning robot, but years of working in a chlorine environment resulted in one of its gaskets failing, destroying the electronics inside. Instead of replacing it, he decided to try his hand at rebuilding it using an AVR ATmega8 microcontroller.

But wait! Wasn’t there a warranty? Expired. Couldn’t he just get a new board from the manufacturer? Costs almost as much as a new robot – time to open it up!

He’s broken the project into two parts, the out of water timer circuitry, and the robot itself. The timer is responsible for converting 220VAC to low voltage DC for the robot, and for turning it on and off based on a schedule (duh). He’s using an ATmega8 based countdown programmable timer which he designed himself for a previous project.

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Robotic Scalextrics

scalectrics

At the Volkswagen factory there are two towers – AutoTürme – filled with gigantic robots lifting cars into parking spaces. It’s by far the most efficient way of putting a huge number of cars in a small footprint. Slot cars exist, so how about a completely overwrought yet entirely awesome robotic parking garage for 1:32 scale cars? (.es, Google translatrix)

The project is built around several ‘racks’ to hold cars arranged around a central elevator. An Arduino takes care of moving all the motors and reading all the sensors, with the basic idea behind the project being the ability to select a car and have it appear in the pit of the track a few moments later.

Although this is just one small part of what is already a very impressive slot car track, it is however the most electronic. Other unique additions include a very unique cantilever/suspension bridge and the usual modeling techniques of creating a landscape with little more than cardboard and glue.

The best way to get a sense of how cool the parking garage is through the video. You can check that out below.

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Self-Assembling Origami Robots

orgami-robots-harvard

MIT engineers have developed a technique to address the challenges involved in manufacturing robots at a cheap and accessible level. Like a plant folding out its petals, a protein folding into shape, or an insect unveiling its wings, this autonomous origami design demonstrated the ability for a mechanical creature to assemble itself and walk away. The technique opens up the possibility of unleashing swarms of flat robots into hard to reach places. Once on site, the robots mobilize from the ground up.

The team behind the project used flexible print circuit boards made out of paper and polystyrene, which is a synthetic aromatic polymer typically found in the commercially sold children’s toy Shrinky Dinks™. Each hinge had embedded circuits that were mechanically programmed to fold at certain angles. Heat was applied to the composite structure triggering the folding process. After about four minutes, the hinges would cool allowing the polystyrene to harden. Some issues did arise though during the initial design phase due to the amount of electrical current running the robots, which was ten times that of a regular light bulb. This caused the original prototypes to burn up before the construction operation was completed.

In the long-term, Core Faculty Member [Robert] would like to have a facility that would provide everyday robotic assistance to anyone in the surrounding community. This place would be accessible to everyone in the neighborhood helping to solve whatever problems might arise, which sounds awfully like a hackerspace to us. Whether the person required a device to detect gas leaks or a porch sweeping robot, the facility would be there to aid the members living nearby.

A video of [Robert] and [Sam] describing the project comes up after the break:

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