Tiny Jumping Robot Finds Room for a Tail

This is likely the lightest, smallest robot that can controllably run and jump

1 min read
Tiny Jumping Robot Finds Room for a Tail

We first met Jianguo Zhao's jumping robot at ICRA 2011. We were impressed because of how tiny it was, but also because it could change direction, self-right, and jump, all using just one single motor and a clever arrangement of gears. A new upgrade (inspired by research from UC Berkely) adds a tail to the mix, giving this little robot the ability to orient itself in midair. Oh, and it can also run, because why not.

Adding a tail also involved adding an extra motor to the robot, but there was no way that the designers could tolerate such inefficiency. So, the tail motor and gear can team up with a gear on the jumping motor to give the robot the ability to move horizontally along the ground. My guess is that the next iteration of this robot that we see will (somehow) have that motor enabling three abilities instead of just two.

The total weight of the robot is still just 26 grams, and it's only 7.5 centimeters tall. It can jump over 80 centimeters up (with a 75 degree takeoff angle), and while "running," it can reach speeds of nearly 4 cm/s. In addition, the robot is equipped with on-board sensors, and of course it can be controlled wirelessly or made fully autonomous, and the designers speculate that it might be appropriate for applications like search and rescue, military surveillance, and environmental monitoring.

The robot is being developed at the Robotics and Automation Lab at Michigan State University, directed by Professor Ning Xi. Officially, the research will be presented at IROS 2013 in Toyko this November, but a pre-print edition of the full paper is already available online here.

[ MSU Tailbot ]

Thanks Jianguo!

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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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