The hand has fingers with several jointed segments, inspired by those wooden hand models sold as home decor at IKEA. The fingers are controlled via a toothed belt system, with two beefy 11 kg servos responsible for flexing each individual finger joint. A third 25 kg servo flexes the finger as a whole. [Ivan] does a good job of hiding the mechanics and wiring inside the structure of the hand itself, making an attractive robot appendage.
As with many such projects, control is where things get actually difficult. It’s one thing to make a robot hand flex its fingers in and out, and another thing to make it move in a useful, coordinated fashion. Regardless, [Ivan] is able to have the hand grip various objects, in part due to the usefulness of the hand’s opposable thumb. Future plans involve adding positional feedback to improve the finesse of the control system.
While the concept of automotive “autopilots” are still in their infancy, pretty much any aircraft larger than an ultralight will have some mechanism to at least hold a fixed course and altitude. Typically the autopilot system is built into the airplane’s controls, but this new system replaces the pilot themselves in a manner reminiscent of the movie Airplane.
The robot pilot, known as PIBOT, uses both AI and robotics technology to fly the airplane without altering the aircraft. Unlike a normal autopilot system, this one can be fed the aircraft’s manuals in natural language, understand them, and use that information to fly the airplane. That includes operating any of the aircraft’s cockpit controls, not just the control column and pedal assembly. Supposedly, the autopilot can handle everything from takeoff to landing, and operate capably during heavy turbulence.
The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) research team that built the machine hopes that it will pave the way for more advanced autopilot systems, and although this one has only been tested in simulators so far it shows enormous promise, and even has certain capabilities that go far beyond human pilots’ abilities including the ability to remember a much wider variety of charts. The team also hopes to eventually migrate the technology to the land, especially military vehicles, although we’ve seen how challenging that can be already.
A research paper titled Biological Organisms as End Effectors explores the oddball approach of giving small animals jobs as grippers at the end of a robotic arm. Researchers show that pill bugs and chitons — small creatures with exoskeletons and reflexive movements — have behaviors making them useful as grippers, with no harm done to the creatures in the process. The prototypes are really just proofs of concept, but it’s a novel idea that does work in at least a simple way.
Pill bugs reflexively close, and in the process can grasp and hold lightweight objects. The release is simply a matter of time; researchers say that after about 115 seconds a held object is released naturally when the pill bug’s shell opens. While better control over release would be good, the tests show basic functionality is present.
Another test involves the chiton, a small mollusk that attaches to things with suction and can act as an underwater end effector in a similar way. Interestingly, a chiton is able to secure itself to wood and cork; materials that typical suction cups do not work on.
A chiton also demonstrates the ability to manipulate a gripped object’s orientation. Chitons seek dark areas, so by shining light researchers could control in which direction the creature attempts to “walk”, which manipulates the held object. A chiton’s grip is strong, but release was less predictable than with pill bugs. It seems chitons release an object more or less when they feel like it.
This concept may remind readers somewhat grimly of grippers made from dead spiders, but researchers emphasize that we have an imperative to not mistreat these living creatures, but to treat them carefully as we temporarily employ them in much the same manner as dog sleds or horses have been used for transportation, or carrier pigeons for messages. Short videos of both pill bug and chiton grippers are embedded below, just under the page break.
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.
Bolt Bots is very simple to understand, with all the mechanics and wiring out there in the breeze, but strictly for indoor use we reckon. If you want to add remote control to your application, then drop in one of the ubiquitous nRF24L01 boards and build yourself a copy of the remote control [saul] handily provides in this other project.
There really isn’t a great deal we can say about this, as it’s essentially a build kit with quite a few configuration options, and you just have to build with it and see what’s possible. We expect the number of parts to proliferate over time giving even more options. So far [saul] demonstrates a few flavors of ‘walkers’, a rudimentary ‘robot arm’, and even a hanging drawbot.
Servo-based designs are sometimes sneered at due to their dubious accuracy and repeatability, but with a little of effort, this can be vastly improved upon. Also, multi-legged walkers need multiple servos and controllers to drive ’em. Or do they?
Thanks to 3D printing and inexpensive controllers, a robot arm doesn’t need to break the bank anymore. Case in point? [Build Some Stuff] did a good-looking compact arm with servos for under $60. The arm uses an interesting control mechanism, too.
Instead of the traditional joystick, the arm has a miniature arm with potentiometers at each joint instead of motors. By moving the model arm to different positions, the main arm will mimic your motions. It is similar to old control systems using a synchro (sometimes called a selsyn), but uses potentiometers and servo motors.