Beware, arachnophobes, the robots are coming for you!
What else would you be expected to think if you watched a hexapod robot display its best Transformers impression by turning into a wheel and pushing itself in your direction? The BionicWheelBot — developed by [Festo] — should rightly remind you of the cartwheeling Flic-Flac spider, the main inspiration for the robot. Of course, Star Wars fans might justifiably see a Droideka.
The BionicWheelBot can — almost — seamlessly transition between crawling around on six legs, to literally rolling away. To do so, its three pairs of legs sequentially fold up into a shape befitting its namesake and then pauses for a moment — almost for dramatic effect — before the real fun begins.
If ever any sci-fi robot form-factor made more sense than the Droideka of the Star Wars franchise, we’re not sure what it could be. Able to transform from a spheroid that rolls quickly onto the battlefield into a blaster-bristling tripodal walker, the Hollywood battle droid showed a lot of imagination and resulted in a remarkably feasible design. And now that basic design is demonstrated in a spherical quadrupedal robot that can transform from rolling to walking.
Intended as a proof of concept of a hybrid rolling-walking locomotion system, the QRoSS robot from Japan’s Chiba Institute of Technology is capable of some pretty amazing things already. Surrounded by a wire roll cage that’s independent of the robot’s legs, QRoSS is able to roll into position, unfurl its legs, and walk where it needs to go. Four independent legs make it sure-footed over rough terrain, with obvious applications in such fields as urban search and rescue; a hardened version could be tossed into a collapsed building or other dangerous environment and walk around to provide intelligence or render aid. The robot’s self-righting feature would be especially handy for that use case, and as you can see in the video below, it has a powered rolling mode that’s six times faster than its walking speed.
For a similar spherical transforming robot, be sure to check out the MorpHex robot with its hexapod design.