IROS 2013: JPL's Microspine Rock-Climbing Robot

JPL outfits a robot with microspine grippers to help it climb around rocks in space

1 min read
IROS 2013: JPL's Microspine Rock-Climbing Robot

At ICRA 2012, JPL introduced its microspine gripper system, which uses hundreds of tiny little claws to grip rough surfaces. We saw some video of a robot hanging from one of these, but it was just being used as a passive anchor. At IROS this week, JPL researchers presented a new video showing an upgraded version of their gripper integrated onto their LEMUR IIB robot, turning it into the "world's first rock climbing robot."

Each one of these grippers relies on over 750 tiny little claws (all made by hand thanks to JPL summer interns) to latch onto the sort of rough surfaces that you're likely to find on other planets and asteroids. The grippers are particularly relevant to asteroids, since they offer a dependable (and reversible) way to grab onto surfaces even in microgravity.

The climbs in this video weren't autonomous, and LEMUR IIB weighs too much and doesn't have enough degrees of freedom to deal with anything but relatively flat rock. Next, JPL is considering outfitting some of their other robots with microspine grippers, including the next generation of LEMUR and even their fancy new DRC robot, RoboSimian. 

"Video Presentation of a Rock Climbing Robot," by Aaron Parness, Matt Frost, Jonathan A King, Nitish Thatte, Kevin Witkoe, Moises Nevarez, Michael Garrett, Hrand Aghazarian, and Brett Kennedy, from JPL/Caltech, was presented at IROS 2013 in Tokyo, Japan.

[ JPL Robotics ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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