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Stutter Jumping Robot Requires Less Power

A little hop before a big jump can save robots a lot of power

2 min read
Stutter Jumping Robot Requires Less Power

We love jumping robots, and not just because they're so much fun to watch. Jumping is also a great way to get around: it's far more efficient than flying, and much more versatile than driving or walking or crawling. Jumping robots do still need a big burst of power to get off the ground, but after 20,000 jumps worth of analysis, researchers at Georgia Tech have found a secret that makes robotic hops ten times more efficient.

Okay, here's the secret. Get ready, 'cause it's quick and you don't want to miss it:

Catch that? There's a stutter (a little jump) right before the first big jump. That's all, that's the secret. It's simple, but it makes a huge difference. Daniel Goldman, one of the authors on a paper published in Physical Review Letters, explains:

“If we time things right, the robot can jump with a tenth of the power required to jump to the same height under other conditions. In the stutter jumps, we can move the mass at a lower frequency to get off the ground. We achieve the same takeoff velocity as a conventional jump, but it is developed over a longer period of time with much less power.”

How much less power? Up to 10 times less. The jump takes longer to make because of the initial hop that's required, but that seems like a small price to pay to keep your robot bouncing ten times longer on the same amount of power. 

This trick works with "pogo stick" jumping robots, which are robots that use springs to store energy. Georgia Tech built themselves the most simple jumping robot possible to run their experiments, consisting of a leg, a spring, and an actuating mass. They expected to find that the optimal jumping strategy would be related to the resonant frequency of the system, but after ten thousand tests or so, it turned out that frequencies above and below the resonance led to optimal jumping, and that's where the stutter jump comes from.

The link below has a nifty little interactive website that lets you virtually mess around with the jumping robot used in these experiments. Next up, the researchers are going to keep on experimenting with this robot, except on a variety of surfaces including sand and disaster-type environments.

[ CRAB Lab ] via [ Georgia Tech ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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