Step Right Up Or Cower In Fear; The 7-Story Car-Juggling Robot Is Here

Seven story robot juggles three VW Beetles

Sometimes we see a project that’s just as frightening as it is awesome. The Bug Juggler is a prime example of this phenomenon. A seven-story diesel-powered humanoid robot is one thing, but this one will pick up two VW Beetles, put one in its pocket, pick up a third, and juggle them. Yes, juggle them.

The Bug Juggler will be driven by a brave soul sitting in the head-cage and controlling him through haptic feedback connected to high-speed servo valves. A diesel engine will generate hydraulic pressure, and the mobility required for juggling the cars will come from hydraulic accumulators.

The project is in the capable hands of team members who have built special effects, a diesel/hydraulic vehicle for hauling huge sections of pipe, and mechanisms for Space Shuttle experiments. In order to attract investors for the full-scale version, they are building an 8-foot tall proof-of-concept arm assembly capable of tossing and catching a 250lb. mass.

If you prefer to see Beetles crushed, check out Stompy, the 18-foot rideable hexapod. Make the jump to see an animation of the full-scale Bug Juggler in action. Don’t know about you, but we wouldn’t stand quite so close to it without a helmet and some really good health insurance.

[via Gizmodo]

73 thoughts on “Step Right Up Or Cower In Fear; The 7-Story Car-Juggling Robot Is Here

  1. Dream big, fail bigger. Seems very unlikely they will get a hydraulic system to move fast enough at that scale (both size, weight, speed) to juggle anything. Maybe, but I wouldn’t invest my money in it.

  2. Roll cages and helmets so you can sell tickets to ride inside too. Falling from 100′ is what about 50 MPH? Probably a death sentence, but should be included in the awesome animation anyway!

  3. Oh and they want to apparently control it manually – a guy sitting on the robot steering it. That’s pretty much a disaster waiting to happen. If a juggler misses a ball, it is embarrassing. If they miss a *CAR*, someone is going to die.

    How can someone think that this is a good idea for “entertainment” is beyond me.

    1. Some people don’t think “The Hunger Games” is too far from a possible distopian future, and the Romans fed Christians to the lions.

      And lets not forget the crowds public hangings, beheadings, etc used to draw.

      Add in our current “reality” TV infatuation, brain-dead anime, and Disney/Nick Jr/Adult Swim drool-proof scripts.

      NEVER underestimate the brutality or stupidity of what the public will choose for “entertainment”.

    2. > How can someone think that this is a good idea for “entertainment” is beyond me.

      Ah ha! You haven’t been to BurningMan – on the ticket, it says by attending, you are releasing the organizers from liability if you are injured or DIE! …One (of many) Burner saying is “Safety third!” That sounds ridiculous until you find out there’s better FREE emergency healthcare in the desert during the event than most Americans have access to year round.

      Last year, a camp mate of mine was ran over by 5 unlit bicycles (he fell and they weren’t lit up at night so he didn’t see them coming) and suffered a broken arm. He got x-rays ON-SITE (mobile x-ray van), a sling (didnt need a cast, but he could have got one), and half a week of painkillers – all for free.

      That doesnt mean I would get close to a car-juggling robot, but I sure as hell would go see it.

      1. Man, you guys really have a shitty healthcare. Where I live I have 100% coverage in pretty much everything medical (hospitalization, transportation, analysis, ..), including dental and prosthesis.

        1. Yes, America:
          “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
          …just don’t expect me to take care of them when they get here.

        2. Yes, all the leeches and blood letting you need right? There’s free healthcare, then there’s healthcare that actually works. I’d rather pay for 21st century modern medicine then get free healthcare rooted in the 1970’s.

          1. I think we all agree with you. However, you missed a third option: free healthcare based on C21 medicine! That’s the one the civilised, first world countries opt for.

  4. Anyone that has ever built ANYTHING in the real world that has a motor on it knows this is not feasible. Not by a long shot. It will literally tear itself apart if it is capable of even generating enough force to toss a car. The grippers needed to hold (not catch or toss, just hold) even a spherical object are so complex that scaling them up to this level is damn near impossible.

    Seriously Hackaday! Where has all your common sense gone???? I look forward to all your positive coverage of “cool looking” perpetual motion machines!

    1. It’s not -impossible-, but it is difficult.

      Also, you’re assuming a lot of things. Lets try for MVP (Minimum Viable Product):

      * The VW beetles are empty, no motor, just a shell
      * The arms are electric, not hydraulic.
      * The tech is based on already existing tech, nothing truly novel added

      A brief search reveals this video — it’s basically an electric robotic assembly arm, similar to a PUMA arm:

      So, it’s possible to toss a lightweight box. An empty car shell would, proportionally, be similar.

      I don’t see anything that can’t be handled with some fairly straightfoward engineering. As for the ability of an operator of heavy equipment to do delicate, even precision, work? Look here:

      I’ve seen demonstrations of digger operators sculpting sand, ice, and once .. scooping up ice cream. It’s amazing what a person can do with practice.

      1. I’ll be the first to say i’m no expert but having operated a bobcat I can see some discrepancies in the analogy.

        While, yes in theory i agree that its not completely impossible, i think its much more difficult than the straightforward scaling issue that you suggest. Scaling up a design, especially to the orders of magnitude from a (relatively) small assembly line robot, to the 7 story tall robot, is a huge challenge. Just ask the Krupp industries about scaling up their tank designs to the Maus super heavy tank.

        Furthermore, the difference in a 7 story tall humanoid robot and a compact bobcat are significant. As far as physics and kinematics go the human frame and muscular-skeletal system is rather inefficient compared to designs in common heavy machinery like a bobcat. From a heavy machinery point of view, the power/weight ratios you’re dealing with in a bobcat are just silly, allowing controls responsive enough for a sufficiently skilled operator to dance with.

        Then there is comparing the two tasks at hand from the examples given. A self balancing robot is a relatively common robotics/automation problem solved by many hobbyists and is a basic control loop feedback problem akin to what is necessary for dancing bobcats. Compare the number of self-balancing bots to the number of juggling bots and that will tell you something, namely that the task of tracking, tossing, catching, and maintaining the loop is a much more complicated task that requires significant amounts of speed, coordination, dexterity, and in the case of small cars, strength.

        Finally, when it comes to drivers, whether electrical, hydraulic, or pneumatic, speed, torque/force, and displacement are all mutually competing outcomes. Supposing one had drivers that had the necessary displacement, power, and speed there would still be lag in the system that would make a task like juggling incredibly difficult.
        While I admit the video is an infomercial of sorts and the lag factor is implemented at a different point in the feedback loop it does highlight the difficulties of performing various tasks with a small amount of lag (1/3 second).

        Am i hater? nah. I don’t think a machine that can be juggle small cars is beyond the realm of plausibility. However, a machine with a control scheme, at the scale, in the implementation they propose, with even near future hardware stretches the bounds of belief… At least for me. :)

      2. As a farmer who operates a skid steer on a fairly regular basis I can tell you that it doesn’t take much skill to balance a skid steer on 2 wheels. It just takes a willingness to treat your machinery a little rougher than needed. Its really not much harder than balancing a wheelchair.

    2. We already have cinder block tossing robots, high speed, high torque servos and hydraulics and super strong/lightweight materials.
      10 years ago I would have agreed this was impossible. Not now.

      1. A single arm capable of flinging empty VW Beetle bodies – sure, why not, a completely stripped body is less then 150kg (>300lb)…
        A self balancing 7 story high bipedal robot – nope. Not in a longshot, the servos available are either too slow or are not scalable to that size.

        1. If you look the web site, you will see that they do not plan to do a self balancing robot: the feet are attached to long beam under the floor level to allow it to bend over. That show they do not even consider binding knees as an option. So what we see is actually “just” a juggling articulated upper body robot :-)

  5. Let me interject a comment into the arguments about feasibility: since I became an independent consult/contractor in 2003, the ONE thing I miss about leaving my 8-5 engineering job (and working alone most days) is being around witty, bright people and listening to their banter; even their arguments. You guys constitute a pretty good (textual) replacement. Keep it up.

  6. All your pros and cons argument are for naught, ’cause you see, there is at least one lawyer involved. The clue is on their website, “…patent pending laws…”. Now, can they patent juggling? No, ‘been done. Can they patent a juggling robot, no, ‘been done. Can they patent tossed Beetles? No, ‘been done. Can they patent a 70′ tall Beetle juggling robot? No, ’cause this is NOT AN INVENTION IT IS A $&@#%^*£€¥ APPLICATION!

    The American Patent System: the dumbest process on Earth. Why? It involve ignorant, greedy, arrogant lawyers.

    Won’t happen.

  7. I doubt that the engineering can work at that scale with the sort of acceleration and deceleration required to move weights around like that. Is July 1 the new April 1?

  8. Hey if they want to try it, I say go for it. I for one will need to see it to believe it, I agree that the structural stresses would make the mockup in the cg vid no very likely, but I’m sure a medium sized version would be feasible. maybe something that juggles grocery carts.

  9. start small and build from there. bowling balls to cinder blocks to engine blocks maybe? just because i can’t see it working, doesn’t mean it can’t. i see blown hydraulic lines, seals failing, transmissions burning out, control failures, metal fatigue and plain old misalignments. (i am also often wrong)

  10. They might want to use electromagnets instead of hands to grab the beetles. And some jet engines retooled into a backpack for it to wear so it could leap tall buildings in a single bound would be a nice touch, too (or possibly liquid-fueled rockets would be better).

  11. Perhaps a better summary than “7-Story Car-Juggling Robot Is Here” might be “7-Story Car-Juggling Robot Proposal is CGI Animation”.

    Looks pretty awesome. I’m skeptical, but if they pull it off, it’ll be pretty damn awesome!

  12. That’s not a bad idea. Have a topic of “Crazy-a$d-Ideas”. Throw a topic out from the grab bag and let people chew on it. Why it wouldn’t work, what could be tried, etc. Make for some good thought experiments.

  13. First challenge, getting a robot that can juggle. a fair bit of controls engineering right there. Second challenge scale it up. The first challenge is seriously challenging. I would love to see this happen but this is not a light engineering undertaking. The second challenge, you are putting insane forces on levers at those scales. You will need something super light with high tinsel strength. You would probably need a system that can move your primary manipulator with an acceleration greater then 9.8m/s with some margin. The robot forearms will snap under the forces. I think that challenge that is going to require the most amazing bit of engineering assuming you can get through the other insanely hard challenges. Unless, the dampening on the grab buffers and then thrusts the other arm while the third car is in the air. Sounds like calculations need to be done.

  14. First step would be to build a test arm that simply tosses a Bug straight up then catches it. Keep beefing it up until it can toss and catch the Bug a few hundred times, or until the Bug is falling apart.

    Second step. Build two duplicates of that prototype, one left and one right, then set them up to simply toss the Bug back and forth. Test to failure again, because there will inevitably be things in this stage changed from the first test arm due to the first arm being repaired and rebuilt multiple times.

    Once they can demonstrate a two arm machine capable of lobbing a Bug back and forth between its hands longer than the structural integrity of the Bug lasts, then they’ll be getting somewhere.

  15. Oh god this project is NUTS. Would not want to be watching it from less than 500 yards away unless I was in a stupid strong bunker :D

    Still, knowing the kinds of things MTS builds, ( I bet it’s buildable. 2g acceleration for a factory stock Beetle only needs ~6000lbf. Tossing one repeatedly should be in the same ball-park as the whole-house seismic simulators MTS builds.

  16. A giant juggling robot would be enough of a feat. What if they used some light weight car replicas. That would be almost as cool to look at as the real (not-happening) thing.

  17. Not wanting to rain on their parade, but even if they can build the *robot* that could theoretically do it (which I doubt that they can with this spindly design, but let’s give them the benefit of doubt), the *cars* aren’t going to stand up to being tossed and caught like that. A catch like that would crumble the cages. This is a great way to toss debris in a huge radius around this.

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