TOPS, The DIY Robot Dog, Has Great Moves

We love [Aaed Musa]’s TOPS (Traverser of Planar Surfaces) which is a robot dog with custom-made actuators. The DIY is very strong with this project, and the 3D-printed parts alone took a whopping three weeks to print!

There’s additional detail on the electronics and design of TOPS in the build log of the project’s page, so check it out because there are all sorts of nice design details, like the feet being cast with a silicone outer layer for better traction. We’ve previously covered [Aaed]’s DIY robotic actuator design which we’re delighted to see is put to excellent use in the finished robot.

Of course, a robot’s hardware and physical design is only part of the battle. In fact, [Aaed] says the software side of things was probably the biggest overall challenge. It takes a lot of work to make walking happen, and the process has in fact been a huge learning experience. [Aaed] already has plenty of ideas for a potential TOPS V2.

[Aaed]’s website has video tours of all stages of design and construction of TOPS, and there’s a GitHub repository for all the design details. To see it all in action, check out the short video rounding up the finished robot, embedded here just under the page break.

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DingoQuadruped Is A Cheap Canine-Like Robot

Robot humanoids are cool, but also a bit hard to make work as they only have two legs to stand on. Four-legged robots can be a bit more approachable. The Dingo Quadruped aims to be just such an open-source platform for teaching and experimentation purposes.

The robot is based on the Stanford Pupper, a robot platform we’ve discussed previously. It bears a design not dissimilar from the popular Spot robot from Boston Dynamics. Where Spot costs tens of thousands of dollars, though, Dingo is far cheaper, intended for cheap production by students and researchers for less than $1,500.

The robot weighs around 3 kg, and is approximately the size of a shoebox. Control over the robot is via a wireless game controller. Each leg uses three high-torque servo motors, which are elegantly placed to reduce the inertia of the leg itself. A Raspberry Pi runs the show, with an Arduino Nano also onboard for interfacing analog sensors or additional hardware. The chassis itself has a highly modular design, with a focus on making it easy to add additional hardware.

If you want to get started experimenting with quadruped robots, the Dingo might just be the perfect platform for you. Video after the break.

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2022 FPV Contest: The LOTP Robot Dog

When you think of first person view (FPV) vehicles, aircraft might be what first comes to mind. However, [Limenitis Reducta] has brought a robot dog into the world, and plans to equip it for some FPV adventures.

LOTP pictured with various equippable modules.

The robot dog itself goes by the name of LOTP, for unspecified reasons, and was designed from the ground up in Fusion 360. A Teensy 3.5 is charged with running the show, managing control inputs and outputting the requisite instructions to the motor controllers to manage the walk cycle. Movement are issued via a custom RC controller. Thanks to an onboard IMU, the robotic platform is able to walk effectively and maintain its balance even on a sloping or moving platform.

[Limenitis] has built the robot with a modular platform to support different duties. Equitable modules include a sensor for detecting dangerous gases, a drone launching platform, and a lidar module. There’s also a provision for a camera which sends live video to the remote controller. [Limenitis] has that implemented with what appears to be a regular drone FPV camera, a straightforward way to get the job done.

It’s a fun build that looks ready to scamper around on adventures outside. Doing so with an FPV camera certainly looks fun, and we’ve seen similar gear equipped on other robot dogs, too.

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Robot Dog Has Animal Magnetism

Robot “dogs” are all the rage lately, but you probably haven’t seen one that can climb up a wall. Researchers in Korea have made one that can, assuming the wall is made out of a metal that a magnet can stick to at least. The robot, MARVEL or magnetically adhesive robot for versatile and expeditious locomotion, might be pressing its luck on acronyms, but it is pretty agile as you can see in the video below. Tests showed the robot walking on walls and ceilings. It can cross gaps and obstacles and can even handle a curved storage tank with paint and rust.

The robot weighs 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds), can carry 2 – 3 kg of payload, and operates without a tether. Each foot contains both an electropermanent magnet and magnetorheological elastomers. If you haven’t seen them before, an electropermanent magnet, or EPM, is a magnet that can be turned on or off electronically. The elastomer is a polymer containing ferromagnetic particles that can alter the material’s properties in response to a magnetic field.

EPMs have two parts. One part is a simple permanent magnet. The other is a soft core easily magnetized by a surrounding coil. If you magnetize the soft core to oppose the permanent magnet, the fields cancel out, effectively turning off the magnet. If you magnetize it the other way, it reinforces the field.

This is better than an electromagnet in this application because turning the magnet on or off only requires a brief pulse. If you want your robot to hang out on the ceiling with Spider Man indefinitely, you don’t have to worry about draining your batteries while keeping an electromagnet engaged.

Overall, an interesting robot. Most wall-climbing robots we’ve seen are pretty lightweight. We don’t see nearly as many that can have the feeling of clinging to the ceiling.

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Hackaday Links: August 14, 2022

What’s this? News about robot dogs comes out, and there’s no video of the bots busting a move on the dance floor? Nope — it looks like quadruped robots are finally going to work for real as “ground drones” are being deployed to patrol Cape Canaveral. Rather than the familiar and friendly Boston Dynamics “Big Dog” robot, the US Space Force went with Ghost Robotics Vision 60 Q-UGVs, or “quadruped unmanned ground vehicles.” The bots share the same basic layout as Big Dog but have a decidedly more robust appearance, and are somehow more sinister. The dogs are IP67-rated for all-weather use, and will be deployed for “damage assessments and patrols,” whatever that means. Although since this is the same dog that has had a gun mounted to it, we’d be careful not to stray too far from the tours at Kennedy Space Center.

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Robot Dogs Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, September 29 at noon Pacific for the Robot Dogs Hack Chat with Afreez Gan!

Thanks to the efforts of a couple of large companies, many devoted hobbyists, and some dystopian science fiction, robot dogs have firmly entered the zeitgeist of our “living in the future” world. The quadrupedal platform, with its agility and low center of gravity, is perfect for navigating in the real world, where the terrain is rarely even and unexpected obstacles are to be expected.

The robot dog has been successful enough that there are commercially available — if prohibitively priced — dogs on the market, doing everything from inspecting factory processes and off-shore oil platforms to dancing for their dinner. All the publicity around robot dogs has fueled a crush of DIY and open-source versions, so that hobbyists can take advantage of what the platform has to offer. And as a result, the design of these dogs has converged somewhat, with elements that provide a common design language for these electromechanical pets.

Afreez Gan has been exploring the robot dog space for a while now, and his MiniPupper is generating some interest. He’ll stop by the Hack Chat to talk about MiniPupper specifically and the quadruped platform in general. We’ll talk about what it takes to build your own robot dog, what you can do with one once you’ve built it, and how these bots can play a part in STEM education. Along the way, we’ll touch on ROS, lidar, machine vision with OpenCV, and pretty much anything involved in the care and feeding of your newest electronic pal.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, September 29 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.

Boston Dynamics’ Spot Robot Gets A Price Tag: $75 Grand

One of Spot’s features is the ability to navigate real-world environments. This has not historically been a strong point for robots.

Not long ago, Boston Dynamics’ Spot finally went on sale, meaning the dog-like robot can now be purchased online. Previously it was available only to be leased by early adopters willing to pay to see what the robot had to offer. Pricing was tucked behind an NDA, and Spot could be only leased and not actually purchased — until now.

From a hobbyist’s perspective, Spot’s price is of course eye-watering; the cost of the accessories even more so. It would be perfectly understandable to ask what good is a robotic dog and what makes it worth such a cost?

From an industrial equipment point of view, the cost is perhaps less shocking. Maybe it’s a reminder that from an industrial and commercial perspective, the price of a thing matters mainly in relation to what kind of benefits it can bring, and what kind of price or savings can be hung on that.

Hackers being hackers and free from having to worry about such things, some choose to make their own four-legged robot pals with no winning lotto tickets, juicy grants, or enormous R&D budgets needed.