Floating Walking Robot

It’s no secret that we love bizarre robot locomotion, so we are naturally suckers for BALLU (YouTube link, also embedded below) the Bouyancy-Assisted Lightweight Legged Unit. The project started with a simple observation — walking robots are constrained by having to hold themselves up — and removing that constraint make success much easier. Instead of walking, BALLU almost floats and uses what little net weight it does have to push against the ground.

The legs are really just sticks that bend in the middle, with motors and cables that control the bend. Lift one leg up, and the center of gravity falls slowly toward that foot. Eventually stretching it back out provides forward force. That’s the gimmick, and the challenge lies in piloting the thing, and at the moment it looks to be run on remote control. It’s not going to be as simple as “turn-right-motor, bot turns left”, that’s for sure. And as the video demonstrates in its last few minutes, you don’t want to pit the thing up against a strong breeze.

Anyway, if you can’t get enough odd robotic mechanisms, here’s a recent snake bot, a swimming fish, a wobbling pile of servo jelly, and a single-motor wave worm. Like we said, we <3 odd bots.

[Thanks [Itay] for the tip! via Gizmodo]

29 thoughts on “Floating Walking Robot

  1. I think what they should learn from this is the correction for balance from the balloon actually aids the walking of the robot itself, if they could replicate this with something that would perform the same balancing function do you believe they could make it walk without a balloon?

    I think 5 years for a truly walking robot.

  2. XD!!!
    LMAO. 10 points for griffindor, or something.
    I mean, if students can’t have fun building robots, then what? I would have restricted the hip joints a bit, they woobly a bit too much for my taste, but that’s nitpicking.

  3. Stupid sentence about gravity (no, we CANNOT invert the direction of gravity!).
    the idea is innovative, but who will refill periodically the baloon? anyway for some kind of jobs (i dunno what, but i am short with immagination) this mechanism could be the right answer.

        1. You save 14% with a vacuum as opposed to Helium according to the article you linked. So if you had a material strong enough but not heavier than a latex balloon you would save 14%. Not worth the effort by any comparison. Hydrogen is much lighter though. Hydrogen weighs less than a gramme / Liter so that is more sensible if you want to increase lift as opposed to the hundred something g/L Helium weighs. .

        2. I dunno, a honeycomb structure combine with modern composites might be able to pull it off…barely. The classic ‘entire envelope is one big hollow’ idea can’t work, but include some honeycomb style internal structure inside for reinforcement…

        3. What about places with a less dense atmosphere. Say, Mars? Or is it an equilibrium thing? Less dense atmosphere, the bigger the bubble should be, the harder it is to keep its structure?

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