Sphere Morphing Hexabot Takes On The Wilderness

Morphex Ready To Roll

[Zenta’s] sphere morphing hexabot, the MorpHex, continues to impress us. He’s just released a video showing it off — by having it roll down a hill!

We’ve been following the MorpHex since 2011, and it really is an amazing project — especially when it started to roll around on its own! In this latest update, [Zenta] was trying to get a good outdoor test video, as he’s never seen a hexapod robot roll down a hill. The video (and rolling) goes smoothly until about 3 minutes 36 seconds in, when the MorpHex experiences a catastrophic inner body servo failure!

Surprisingly, it didn’t fail during its tumble down the hill, but when it was just walking around afterwards. [Zenta] attributes it to a poor quality servo and had bad feelings about it breaking previously. Not fixing it earlier resulted in having to spend 10 hours of his Easter holiday taking Morphex apart and repairing it! Just goes to show… don’t wait until it’s too late to fix something!

And the clip of when the inner body servo fails:


[Thanks Joel!]

16 thoughts on “Sphere Morphing Hexabot Takes On The Wilderness

  1. I am cringing at about the 1:00 mark, thinking of the sand / grit that is being picked up inside the body as the bottom part closes, prior to rolling. That can’t be good for all those intricate gears!

  2. Brilliant… Haven’t read through all his blog posts on this machine, but I am assuming that in the future he will add an external resilient coating to the pod sections to reduce shock while “rolling” and increase traction. Beautiful engineering.

  3. The walking is quite slow, but you seem able to get some impressive speed with it rolling in the cylindrical (as opposed to spherical) config. I get the feeling that if you could get it to pull the tips of the feet inward ( on ‘top’ and ‘bottom’), you could get it into a wheel-shape that would be able to move even faster on relatively straight paths.

    No worries about the sand – unless you’ve got servos attached to the back of each foot-plate. Gravity and centrifugal force should send it right back out. Deep water, however, could be a problem. :)

    It just needs a couple more features. And by “needs features” I mean the MorpHex is so neat, you inspired me to think of all kinds of features for various applications that it could use, but…you’re going to need a bigger ball.
    Software: self-identification of orientation, which mode it’s in (walker, sphere, cylinder, wheel, etc), and momentum, with some lite AI work so it knows how to stop or right itself at a command.
    Hardware: some kind of tire or texturing on the foot-plate face and/or edges to add grip in different modes. Cut off the tips on the triangle feet and put hexagon plates on top & bottom. These can be used for righting and leaping. You could also put a small solar-panel on the back of the hex plates that it could flip out and charge while in the field.
    Capability: Climb stairs and jump. Every spider should be able to jump. :)

    It just needs a few more features for Military purposes:
    -protective plates behind each foot-plate (1/2 or 1/3 size) that swing out to fill the gaps between the feet. If it were 50-100ft in diameter, it could plant itself above a beleaguered position and offer the guys inside some respite behind it’s impenetrable dome, using the extra plates to completely encircle them.
    -impact struts: so the plates recoil under the impact of those RPGs sent at it and avoid taking serious damage.
    -interior carry-cage: if need be, to get those guys out of there.
    -articulating arm and grip: to pick up injured, samples, etc to put in the cage.
    -self-repair capability in the field: a simple impact-hammer on the arm and capability to send current through the plates. If the plates experienced mild-to-moderate deformation from munitions, it could use electrical current to heat them up to a malleable temperature and use the impact hammer to reshape them. Perhaps it could even harden and temper them that way. :)

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