Making A Robotic Dog Better By Adding Springiness Without Springs

Getting a legged robot to stay upright, especially a quadruped or biped, can be a challenging undertaking. To experiment with different approaches, [James Bruton] built robot dog test platform and is playing with “dynamic compliant simulated springs“, or in other words, using the motors to act as though they were springs and dampers..

When robotic legs are kept stiff, they tend to reduce the stability of the platform due to the sudden erratic movements of the robot, especially on uneven surfaces. With a back drivable joint arrangement, [James] is using limited holding current on the motor, and the position of the motor shaft is monitored using an encoder. When a leg experiences a resisting force, with will have some “give” and then the motor will return it to it’s intended position more slowly. Using a IMU on top of the robot, it can detect when it start leaning to a side, and then temporarily soften the other side to balance the robot.

This is quite a common technique in legged robots, but [James] does an excellent job of explaining just how it works. He hopes to use the lessons learned from the test platform to improve or redesign his already impressive OpenDog.

We’ve seen a number of quadruped robots on Hackaday recently. Including Boston Dynamics’ very expensive Spot as well as a low cost robot dog that giving its big brothers a run for their money, and doing some back flips in the process. Check out James’ video after the break. Continue reading “Making A Robotic Dog Better By Adding Springiness Without Springs”

Hackaday Podcast 037: Two Flavors Of Robot Dog, Hacks That Start As Fitness Trackers, Clocks That Wound Themselves, And Helicopter Chainsaws

Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams take a look at the latest hacks from the past week. We keep seeing awesome stuff and find ourselves wanting to buy cheap welders, thermal camera sensors, and CNC parts. There was a meeting of the dog-shaped robots at ICRA and at least one of them has super-fluid movements. We dish on 3D printed meat, locking up the smartphones, asynchronous C routines, and synchronized clocks.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

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A Pet Robot, Just Like Boston Dynamics Makes

Every few months or so, a new video from Boston Dynamics will make the rounds on the Internet. This is their advertising, because unless the military starts buying mechanical mules, Boston Dynamics is going to be out of business pretty soon. You’ll see robots being kicked down the stairs, robots walking through doors, and robots acting like dogs. If a hundred or so highly skilled and highly educated roboticists, technologists, and other experts can put together a walking dog robot in a decade, obviously one person can cut through the cruft and build one in a basement. That’s what [Misha] is doing. It’s the Dizzy Wolf, a robotic wolf, or dog, or cat, we don’t actually know because there’s no fur (or head) yet. But it is interesting.

The key component for any quadruped robot is a high-torque, low-noise servo motor. This isn’t a regular ‘ol brushless motor, and for this application nine gram servos go in the trash. This means custom made motors, or DizzyMotors. You’re looking at a big brushless motor with a planetary gearset, all squished into something that could actually fit into the joint of a robotic wolf’s leg.

There’s a driver for these motors, strangely not called the DizzyDriver, that turns a BLDC into a direct drive servo motor. It is effectively a smart servo, that will move to a specific rotation, receive commands over RS-485, and write back the angular position. It also applies constant torque. Of course, there is a video of the DizzyMotor and servo driver below.

Building a robotic dog that will walk around the house is one of the hardest engineering challenges out there. You’ve got fairly crazy kinematics, you’ll need to think about the strength of the frame, control systems, and eventually how to fit everything in a compact design. This project is hitting all the marks, and we can’t wait to see the Dizzy Wolf do a backflip or chase a ball.

Continue reading “A Pet Robot, Just Like Boston Dynamics Makes”