Inflatable Ant-Roach Robot is Big Enough to Ride

This big blue robot with its giant nose can be blown up just like a balloon

2 min read
Inflatable Ant-Roach Robot is Big Enough to Ride

This robot is called Ant-Roach. Ant-Roach is called Ant-Roach because to those with a fanciful imagination it looks a bit like a cross between an anteater and a cockroach, although it'll take an even more fanciful imagination to figure out a way that that could ever naturally come to pass. Imagination or no imagination, this thing exists, it moves, and you can ride it (AWESOME).

And, it's completely inflatable, muscles and all.

Is that not one of the greatest things ever? Just look at his nose!

Ant-Roach weighs only 70 pounds (seeing as it's hollow and made of fabric), which means that one reasonably in-shape person can carry it around (as long as it's been deflated first). As you can see from the pic, though, the robot is capable of supporting a lot of weight: as much as 1,000 pounds.

To move, Ant-Roach uses what looks to be four independently controllable pneumatic bags that have been designed to contract when inflated. By attaching these bags to the legs and torso of the robot and inflating and deflating them in sequence, Ant-Roach can be made to walk, turn, and even swim (sort of). 

This robot is a project of Otherlab, which is also working on a pneumatic arm and hand:

It's hard to tell from the vid, but this two pound arm is capable of lifting several hundred pounds all by itself, and it can kick your ass any day of the week when it comes to arm wrestling.

So why the focus on inflatable robots? There are lots of reasons: they're cheap, they're (relatively) easy to build, they're (also relatively) easy to fix, and they have very high strength to weight ratios. Perhaps most importantly, being full of air, inflatable robots tend to be much more compliant than their metallic brethren, meaning that they're inherently safer to have operating around humans

[ Otherlab ] via [ Hizook ]

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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