When [Carl] Says Jump, PCBs Say “How High?”

We’ve noticed that [Carl Bugeja] likes flexible PCBs. His latest exploit is to make PCB-based springs that combine with some magnets to create little devices that jump. We aren’t sure what practical use these might have, but they are undeniably novel and you can see them — um — jumping around, in the video, below.

[Carl] did many experiments with the spring construction and design. You can see several of the iterations in the video, not all of which worked out well. A PCB coil in the base becomes magnetized when current flows and this repels or attracts the magnets at the other end of the spring. What can you do with a PCB spring? We aren’t sure. Maybe this is how your next microrobot could climb stairs?

Adding stiffeners produced springs too stiff for the electromagnet to attract. We wondered if a different coil design at the base might be more effective. For that matter, you might not have to use a flat PCB coil in that position if you were really wanting to optimize the jumping behavior.

Usually, when we are checking in with [Carl] he is making PCB-based motors. Or, sometimes, he’s making PCB heaters for reflow soldering. We’ve seen jumping robots, before, of course. we will say the magnets seem less intense than using compressed air.

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Record-Setting Jumper Tosses Biomimicry Out The Window

How can a few grams of battery, geared motor, and some nifty materials get a jumping robot over 30 meters into the air? It wasn’t by copying a grasshopper, kangaroo, or an easily scared kitty. How was it done, then?

It’s been observed that of all the things that are possible in nature, out of all the wonderful mechanisms, fluid and aerodynamics, and chemistry, there’s one thing that is so far undiscovered in a living thing: continuous rotation. Yes, that’s right, the simple act of going roundy-round is unique to mechanical devices rather than biological organisms. And when it comes to jumping robots, biomimicry can only go so far.

With this distinct mechanical advantage in mind, [Elliot Hawkes] of the University of California Santa Barbara decided to look beyond biomimicry. As explained in the paper in Nature and demonstrated in the video below the break,  the jumping robot being considered uses rubber bands, carbon fiber bows, and commodity items such as a geared motor and LiPo batteries to essentially wind up the spring mechanism and then, like a trap being sprung, release the pent up energy all at once. The result? The little jumper can go almost 100 feet into the air. Be sure to check it out!

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Little Jumping Bot Can Now Stick The Perfect Landing

Sticking the perfect landing can take years of practice for a human gymnast, and it seems the same is true for little monopedal jumping robots. Salto-1P, an old acquaintance here on Hackaday, always needed to keep jumping to stay upright. With some clever control software improvements, it can now land reliably on an area the size of a coin, and then stay there. (Video after the break)

[Justin Yim] from the UC Berkeley’s Biomimetics Lab has been working on Salto for the past four years, and we’ve covered it twice before. Attitude control is handles by a combination of propeller thrusters for roll and yaw, and a reaction wheel for pitch.While it was already impressive before, it had a predictable landing area about the size of a dinner plate.

The trick to the perfect landing is a combination of landing angle, angular velocity and angular momentum. Salto can only correct for ±2.3° of landing angle error, because it doesn’t have a second foot to catch itself when something goes wrong. Ideally the robot’s angular velocity and momentum should be as close as possible to 0 at takeoff, which gives the reaction wheel maximum control authority in flight, as well as on landing.  Basically a well executed takeoff directly influences the chances of a good landing.  [Justin] does an excellent job explaining all this and more on the project’s presentation video. Continue reading “Little Jumping Bot Can Now Stick The Perfect Landing”

Super Mario 64 As Experienced By Mario

Microsoft’s Kinect, a motion-sensing peripherial originally for the Xbox 360, is almost exactly a decade old now. And in that decade it has expanded from its limited existence tied to a console to a widely-used tool for effective and detailed motion sensing, without breaking the bank. While it’s seen use well outside of video games, it’s still being used to reimagine some classic games. In this project, Reddit user [SuperLouis64] has used it to control Mario with his own body.

While the build still involves some use of a hand controller, most of Mario’s movements are controlled by making analogous movements on a small trampoline, including the famed triple jump. The kinect is able to sense all of these movements and translate them into the game using software that [SuperLouis64] built as well. The trickiest movement seems to be Mario’s spin movement, which appears to have taken some practice to get right.

We appreciate the build quality on this one, and [SuperLouis64]’s excitement in playing the game with his creation. It truly looks like a blast to play, and he even mentions in the Reddit thread that he’s gotten a lot of productive excercise with his various VR and augumented reality games in the past few months. Of course if this is too much physical activity, you could always switch to using your car as the unique game controller instead.

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One-Legged Jumping Robot Shows That Control Is Everything

Robots that can jump have been seen before, but a robot that jumps all the time is a little different. Salto-1P is a one-legged jumping robot at UC Berkeley, and back in 2017 it demonstrated the ability to hop continuously with enough control to keep itself balanced. Since then it has been taught some new tricks; having moved beyond basic stability it can now jump around and upon things with an impressive degree of control.

Key to doing this is the ability to plant its single foot exactly where it wants, which allows for more complex behaviors such as hopping onto and across different objects. [Justin Yim] shows this off in the video embedded below, which demonstrates the Salto-1P bouncing around in a remarkably controlled fashion, even on non-ideal things like canted surfaces. Two small propellers allow the robot to twist in midair, but all the motive force comes from the single leg.

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JumpRoaCH Is Kind Of Cute, Kind Of Creepy

There’s a theory that the fear of scurrying things is genetic. Likewise, a similar theory arose about the tendency for humans to find helpless things cute. After all, our useless babies do best in a pest free environment. This all could explain why we found this robotic roach to be both a little cute and a little creepy.

The university sponsored project, JumpRoaCH, is a collaboration between South Korea’s SNU Biorobotics Lab and Berkeley’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab. Imitating insects has been a popular avenue for robotic research, and often results in very interesting experiments.

This robot looks like a ladybug going through its rebellious teen phase. It runs on six hook shaped legs which allow it to traverse a wider array of surfaces than wheels would, at the expense of speed and higher vibrations. The robot does a very convincing, if wobbly, scurry across the surface of its test table.

It also has a secret attack in the form of a single Rockem Sockem Robot arm located on its belly. With a powerful burst, the arm can launch the robot up a few feet to a higher surface. If the robot lands on its wheels the researchers high-five. If the robot lands on its back, it can use its ,”wings,” to flip itself right-side-up again.

The resulting paper (PDF file) has a nice description of the robot and its clever jumping mechanism. At least if these start multiplying like roaches, hackers will never short for tiny motors for their projects. Video after the break.

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Robots And Crickets

If you watch science fiction movies, the robots of the future look like us. The truth is, though, many tasks go better when robots don’t look like us. Sometimes they are unique to a particular job or sometimes it is useful to draw inspiration from something other than a human being. One professor at Johns Hopkins along with some students decided to look at spider crickets as an inspiration for a new breed of jumping robots.

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