Hacklet 124 Running Robots and The Claw

You never know what you’ll find when you open the projects feed on Hackaday.io. Most weeks, The Hacklet follows a theme of some sort. Sometimes I find projects that just look so cool that I have to get the word out about them.

runner1Such is the case with this week’s first project, Mr. Runner created by [Alex Martin]. Mr. Runner is a quadruped robot that really looks the part. In fact, I’d say it looks like it’s ready to jump off the bench top. Like many of us, [Alex] has been inspired by Boston Dynamics, specifically their Wildcat robot. Wildcat had [Alex] searching the net for walking robot designs. He struck up something he liked with the work of [Dr. Fumiya Iida] and [Dr. Rolf Pfiefer]. In the mid 2000’s, the pair worked out of the University of Zurich. Mr. Runner is based upon their work, with plenty of design tweaks from [Alex].

runner2The basic design is a quadruped with two servos per leg. The servos are at the body and the upper half of the leg. The knee and lower leg are connected by levers and a spring, forming something of a 4 bar linkage. The spring acts as a tendon, absorbing shock, and allowing energy from the servo to be stored and released while the robot runs. [Alex] is experimenting with gaits, controlled by a PC.

Mr. Runner wouldn’t be doing much running without a way to control those 8 servos. [Alex] started with an Arduino and a LynxMotion serial servo controller. This pairing served him well for the first generation of Mr. Runner. For the new version of the robot, he’s rolling his own board based upon Lynxmotion’s
BotBoarduino. The Gerber files have been sent off to OSH Park, and in about a week, Mr. Runner will be off to the races.

claw-1-aAnother great recently updated project is Arcade Claw Game Claw Build by [Alex Anderson]. I spent way too many hours of my youth in arcades, and more than a few quarters went into claw games. Sure, they’re usually rigged, but who hasn’t been pulled in by the chance to test your skill and win a prize? A friend asked [Alex] to design an arcade style claw for a game. A seasoned CNC and 3D printing master, [Alex] grabbed his notebook and started sketching. Rack and pinion designs would work well, but didn’t within the constraints of the game. A leadscrew based design would also work, but would be two expensive. Finally, [Alex] settled on a design and fired up his CAD software. He started with two jaw systems to prove out the basic system. Once that was complete, [Alex] moved to a 4 jaw setup.

claw1Much like the arcade games, the claw is actuated by a central plunger. The plunger drives linkages which move the 4 claw jaws. Everything looks good on paper, but when the CAD drawings meet the real world, things get complicated quickly. The initial design relied on a 3D printed part which connected the plunger to the jaw linkages. Any slop in this part would be magnified through the rest of the mechanical system. 3D printers aren’t perfect, and there was some slop — enough that the parts would pinch and bind up while moving.

[Alex] already has a revised design in mind. This is very much a work in progress. That’s the beauty of well documented projects on Hackaday.io — you get to see what works, as well as all the trials and tribulations it took to get to a final working project. Keep at it [Alex], you’re almost there!

That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

SpotMini Struts Its Stuff

Boston Dynamics, the lauded robotics company famed for its ‘Big Dog’ robot and other machines which push mechanical dexterity to impressive limits have produced a smaller version of their ‘Spot’ robot dubbed ‘SpotMini’.

A lightweight at 55-65 lbs, this quiet, all-electric robot lasts 90 minutes on a full charge and boasts partial autonomy — notably in navigation thanks to proprioception sensors in the limbs. SpotMini’s most striking features are its sleek new profile and manipulator arm, showing off this huge upgrade by loading a glass into a dishwasher and taking out some recycling.

Robots are prone to failure, however, so it’s good to know that our future overlords are just as susceptible to slipping on banana peels as we humans are.

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Taking Atlas For a Walk

Remember Atlas, the humanoid robot from Boston Dynamics? The company bought by Google, er, owned by Alphabet, and uh, most likely to become Skynet? Well — they’ve just shown us that Atlas can take a light jog through the woods now.

Published on YouTube a few days ago, Boston Dynamics gave a quick presentation on some of the upgrades the company has been working on for their bots. First up is a demonstration of Big Dog’s new appendage… What looks like an elephant trunk with a prosthetic hand on the end. Big Dog can now leave the testing lab any time he wants — door knobs are no longer an obstacle. Considering its been able to traverse extremely rough terrain for years now, this doesn’t bode well…

Atlas on the other hand has also come a long way. From standing on his own for the first time back in 2013, he moved quickly to being hit with medicine balls (and not falling over!) — and now, he can run outside. Luckily they haven’t quite figured out the battery pack solution yet… Video of his outdoor escapades after the break.

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Atlas Survives the Wrecking Ball

[Boston Dynamics] has been just full of videos over the last few days. They’ve dropped updates on Atlas and LS3 in addition to the WildCat update we already featured.

This video shows updates to the Atlas robot. This is to be a simplified version of the atlas, as compared to the robots sent off to competitors in the DARPA robotics challenge. Arms have been replaced with weights. It appears that this update focuses on Atlas’ balancing and handling on rough terrain. Atlas walks gingerly, over some crushed cinder blocks – possibly the same ones we saw BigDog throwing around recently. There are a few tense moments, but Atlas manages to get through unscathed.

The real scary part (for us) is watching Atlas get hit with a weighted ball. We’re assuming the 20 on the ball indicates pounds. Imagine getting hit from the side with a 20lb swinging weight. Would you be able to stand up? Did we mention Atlas did this all while standing on one foot? Atlas takes it in stride though – waving its arms to maintain balance in a very human manner.  Notable is the balance system. Atlas never lifts its foot off the ground. This is slightly different from the bouncing/hopping system of balance we’ve come to know and love in [Boston Dynamics’] other robots.  Continue reading “Atlas Survives the Wrecking Ball”

Boston Dynamics Takes WildCat Outside

wildcat

[Boston Dynamics] has released a video of their latest robot, which means it’s time to go hide in bed before this thing comes to get us. The new video features WildCat, which is apparently the evolution of the Cheetah robot we saw last year. Cheetah was an indoor cat, tethered by power, data, and hydraulic lines while running on a treadmill. WildCat has been released to terrorize people explore the great outdoors

Reminiscent of the early videos of BigDog, WildCat is currently powered by an internal combustion engine. The engine drives a hydraulic system, which then actuates the robot’s legs and front/rear pods. The beauty of a system like this is that switching to an electric motor is simple – just replace the IC engine. While we’re sure this would make a much more stealthy cat, weight and run time could be issues. Moving the power system onboard has also slowed down WildCat a bit. Cheetah was able to reach 28 MPH while WildCat can only muster 16 MPH.

WildCat is part of DARPA’s maximum mobility and manipulation program. The research appears to be focused on improving the gaits the robot uses to move at various speeds. The video highlights both bounding and galloping.  Slo-mo sections show all four of WildCat’s legs leaving the ground, which is the suspension phase of a classic gallop gait. Control isn’t perfect yet, as WildCat tumbles at one point in the video.  It gets right back up though – ready for more.

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Atlas humanoid robot standing on his own

Boston Dynamics likes to show off… which is good because we like to see the scary looking robots they come up with. This is Atlas, it’s the culmination of their humanoid robotics research. As part of the unveiling video they include a development process montage which is quite enjoyable to view.

You should remember the feature in October which showed the Robot Ninja Warrior doing the Spider Climb. That was the prototype for Atlas. It was impressive then, but has come a long way since. Atlas is the object of affection for the Darpa Robotics Challenge which seeks to drop a humanoid robot into an environment designed for people and have it perform a gauntlet of tasks. Research teams participating in the challenge are tasked with teaching Atlas how to succeed. Development will happen on a virtual representation of the robot, but to win the challenge you have to succeed with the real deal at the end of the year.

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DARPA funded Robot Ninja Warrior?

Fans of the game show Ninja Warrior will immediately recognize the similarity of this test apparatus as the Spider Climb. Of course that’s not a human contestant, but a humanoid robot developed by Boston Dynamics. And it’s not actually clinging to the vertical walls as its only support. There are two narrow ledges to either side on which its feet gain purchase. Nonetheless this is some impressive work to keep itself upright and avoid slipping. Check out the video after the break to see how it does.

The sheer volume of amazing robot tech that this company spits out is remarkable. Just last month we saw the robotic cheetah which can run at almost 30 mph. We don’t expect to see either in the wild anytime soon, but especially this humanoid. you’ll notice the red rings positioned around the apparatus. We believe these are high-speed cameras set up to give the robot positional feedback and we’d wager it can’t perform without them. But that’s merely conjecture so judge for yourself.

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