rezero ballbot

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

Watch:

[youtube //www.youtube.com/v/sB9IowB8nx8&rel=0&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xd0d0d0&hl=de_DE&feature=player_embedded&fs=1 expand=1]

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:

[youtube //www.youtube.com/v/Yl5xP18bHqs&rel=0&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xd0d0d0&hl=de_DE&feature=player_embedded&fs=1 expand=1]

rezero robot ballbot

 

Read also:

A Robot That Balances on a Ball
Thu, April 29, 2010

Blog Post: Masaaki Kumagai has built wheeled robots, crawling robots, and legged robots. Now he's built a robot that rides on a ball

Riding Honda's U3-X Unicycle of the Future
Mon, April 12, 2010

Blog Post: It only has one wheel, but Honda's futuristic personal mobility device is no pedal-pusher

Personal Mobility Robot Operated by Wii-mote
Thu, April 22, 2010

Blog Post: Japanese researchers demonstrate a robotic wheelchair operated with Wii game controller

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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
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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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