“Look Ma, No Gyros!”: A Self-Balancing Mechanical Velociraptor

You’ve got to walk before you can run, right? Perhaps not, if this bipedal dino-like running robot is any indication.

Officially dubbed a “Planar Elliptical Runner,” the bot is a test platform for bipedal locomotion from the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. Taking inspiration from the gait of an ostrich — we think it looks more like a T. rex or velociraptor, but same difference — [Jerry Pratt]’s team at IHMC have built something pretty remarkable. Contrary to all the bipedal and quadrupedal robots we’ve seen, like Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog and PETMAN, which all fairly bristle with sensors and actuators, the PER is very stripped down.

A single motor runs the entire drive chain using linkages that will look familiar to anyone who has taken an elliptical trainer apart, and there’s not a computer or sensor on board. The PER keeps its balance by what the team calls “reactive resilience”: torsion springs between the drive sprocket and cranks automatically modulate the power to both the landing leg and the swing leg to confer stability during a run. The video below shows this well if you single-frame it starting at 2:03; note the variable angles of the crank arms as the robot works through its stride.

The treadmill tests are constrained by a couple of plastic sheets, but the next version will run free. It’s not clear yet how directional control will be achieved, not is it obvious how the PER will be able to stop running and keep its balance. But it’s an interesting advance in locomotion and we look forward to seeing what IHMC’s next trick will be.

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Gyroman Walks with Just One Motor

For some reason, we seem to really want our robots to walk on two legs like we do. And this despite how much the robots themselves want to be made out of motors, which match up so naturally with wheels. The result is a proliferation of inventive walking mechanisms. Here’s another.

Gyroman is a 3D printed gyroscope with legs. The gyroscope is geared down to lift one leg and then the other. First-semester physics, that we still find a little bit magical, makes the gyro precess and the robot turns a bit. Time these just right and it walks. See the video below for a demo. (Admittedly, Gyroman looks like he’s had a bit too much to drink as he winds down.)

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Walk Your Pet Robot

Anyone who’s ever tried to build a bipedal robot will quickly start pulling their own hair out. There are usually a lot of servos involved, and controlling them all in a cohesive way is frustrating to say the least. [Mark] had this problem while trying to get his robot to dance, and to solve it he built a control system for a simple bipedal robot that helps solve this problem.

[Mark]’s robot has six servo motors per leg, for a total of 12 degrees of freedom. Commands are sent to the robot with an RC radio, and the control board that he built, called the Smart Servo Controller, receives the signals and controls the servos appropriately. There are 14 outputs for servos, operating at 12 bits and 50 Hz each, as well as 8 input channels. The servo controller can be programmed on a computer with user-selectable curves for various behaviors for each of the servos on the project. This eliminates the need to write cumbersome programs for simple robot movements, and it looks like it does a pretty good job!

Full disclosure: [Mark] currently has this project up on Kickstarter, but it is a unique take on complex robot control that could help out in a lot of different ways. Since you don’t need to code anything, it could lower the entry barrier for this type of project, possibly opening it up to kids or school projects. Beyond that, even veterans of these types of projects could benefit by not having to do as much brute-force work to get their creations up and moving around!

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Move Aside Boston Dynamics, ATRIAS is Coming!

ATRIAS has just taken its first steps outside on grass, marking an impressive achievement for this university robotics project.

Built by Oregon State University, ATRIAS is a bipedal robot whose name in jest stands for “Assume The Robot Is A Sphere”. It’s an old physics joke really, which describes how any complex scientific model can be reduced to its simplest form in order perform calculations — but sometimes (always) makes its application in reality a challenge…

We’re sure you all remember BD’s Big Dog and its impressive ability to throw freaking cinder blocks — but remember, it has four legs and a tail — or is it a trunk — an arm? ATRIAS on the other hand is a true threat to humanity and our unique ability to walk around on two legs. And the mechanism they made for it is pretty damn clever.

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Project Sentinel — A Bipedal Walking Robot


[Ye Guan] has always been fascinated by walking robots — so he decided to build his own. It’s called Project Sentinel, and he’s loosely based the design off of the Sentinel Walker from Warhammer 40K, and the two-legged AT-AT walker from Star Wars.

Both of these robots are based off of a bird’s walking style. Scientifically this is called the digitgrade walking style, which means they stand and walk on their digits (toes) — this typically allows them to move more quickly and quietly than most other animals.

[Ye] has managed to achieve this for his project using 8 servo motors, balancing the center of mass directly above the feet. Think about it like a reverse pendulum, which is supported by the servos torque and balanced by a gyroscope. He plans to have it fully autonomous with sensor feedback.

It’s not done yet, but he’s already released all the CAD files and a nice build log for anyone to attempt it themselves — we’re excited to see the final product. Just take a look at it walking in place after the break!

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RC car transforms into RC robot


After nearly 30 years since the first episode of Transformers aired, someone has finally done it. A company named Brave Robotics out of Japan has created a true transformer robot that is half remote control car and half remote control bipedal robot.

According to the Brave Robotics’ site, this creation is the result of more than 10 years. In 2002, the first version of the Transform Robot was completed – a relatively simple affair that transformed but couldn’t walk or drive. Over the last 10 years, the prototypes have seen incremental improvement that included a drive system for the wheels, a steering mechanism, and even the ability to move its’ arms and shoot plastic darts.

Surprisingly, you can actually buy one of Brave Robotics’ transforming robots for ¥1,980,000 JPY, or about $24,000 USD. A little pricy but we’re sure we’ll see a few more transforming robots in the future.

Check out a few more videos of the Brave Robotics transform robot after the break.

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Update on [James’] bipedal robot

From the looks of the latest update [James] has made quite a bit of progress on his bipedal robot. He added to the top of the post just a few days ago, but didn’t include the video link which you’ll find embedded after the break. There’s about ten minutes of explanation before he gets down to demonstrating the static and dynamic balance which can be chosen using the buttons on a TV remote.

We looked in on the project about one year ago. The most notable change is the control electronics anchored in the torso of the robot. At first it makes us a bit nervous that he hasn’t built a protective cage around the components. But after seeing the latest stability demonstration we guess it’s because this thing is fantastic at staying upright. The torso is connected at the hips in such a way that no matter where each leg is it will always remain upright. All together the thing stands twenty-six inches tall, but that will grow when he gets around to building a head for it.

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