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Disney Hopping Robot, From Disney Research

A team of robotics researchers at Disney Research Pittsburgh have created an amazing bouncing, hopping robot! Who even knew that Disney sponsored robot research, in Pittsburgh no less.


(Disney hopping robot video)

The basic structure of the robot and the aptly named Linear Elastic Actuator in Parallel or LEAP mechanism it employs to hop around is outlined in the video below. The Disney engineers kept their robot as similar as possible to Raibert’s original design in order to be able to use his algorithm to control the bouncing bot’s balance. This eliminated the need to write brand new code for purposes of this experiment. The body of the robot sits on an actuated gimbal mechanism that employs two servomotors to handle movement in four directions. The body houses power, computing and sensing components, including the batteries, inertial sensors and a microcomputer. The leg mechanism pairs two compression springs with a voice-coil actuator like those used in audio speakers. These types of actuators are frequently used in applications that require generating thrust. The two springs support most of the robot’s weight while the voice coil provides thrust for upward motion – this forms a Linear Elastic Actuator in Parallel or LEAP mechanism which enables the robot to hop.

You must be saying to yourself "Hopping robots? Never seen them in science fiction!" But, I'm thinking of the 1994 novel Heavy Weather; Bruce Sterling wrote about a device called a "dope mule robot:"

It was crossing the hills with vast, unerring, twenty-meter leaps. A squat metal sphere, painted in ragged patches of dun and olive drab. It had a single thick, pistoning metal leg...

Here are some jumping leaping robot links. Hop to it!

Via botmag and Disney research.

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