A few weeks ago we reported on a ball-balancing robot by Masaaki Kumagai at Tohoku Gakuin University in Japan. Interestingly, the same challenge has been taken up by a team of students at the ETH Zurich in Switzerland, who have just presented their Rezero robot to the public.
The Focus-Project team Ballbot consists of eight future mechanical engineers, studying at the ETH Zurich, two electrical engineers studying at the ZHAW as well as the Industrial Designers educated at ZHdK. Through the combination of our skills and ideas we aim to complete an unprecedented project which develops a new concept of movement. Our team with its task is supervised by Prof. Dr. Roland Siegwart, Director of the ASL at ETH Zurich.
Unlike Kumagai's ballbot, one focus of the Rezero is design:
Rezero is meant to entertain and impress. It is supposed to create emotions. It will be able to interact with a small group of people, react on attractions and in doing so create a hands-on experience with the Ballbot technology. The Ballbot will be an ambassador of its own movement skills. Its dynamic hull even allows Rezero to show and create emotions. Imagine Rezero breathing, being curious or frightened. And even waking up or going to sleep by revealing or retracting its sphere.
Another focus is improved dynamics: To push the boundaries of current ballbots, the team uses a custom-made motor controller in combination with high-performance engines and a specially coated ball. This allows Rezero to move fast - at speeds up to 3.5m/s and with inclinations up to 17 degrees - and to perform unique movements, such as moving with high inclinations while simultaneously rotating around its vertical axis.
The Rezero project is supported by Disney, which just opened their Disney Research lab at ETH Zurich earlier this year -- only the second joint lab with a university (the other is Disney Research in Pittsburgh with CMU).
Another video and more images, including artist renderings of envisioned applications:
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