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Swiss robot spins around on sphere

0 CommentsPrint E-mail CNTV, August 23, 2010
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And from the wonderful and fun world of science a robot has been developed that spins on a ball, gliding over a smooth surface.

Fluid movement is a challenge for robotic engineers and now a group of Swiss students have created a robot that defies the law of gravity as it moves while balancing on a sphere as Paul Crowe reports

Meet ballbot the gliding robot.

It's been designed by 13 students from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The three-foot tall Rezero ballbot, is able to roll across the floor and glide gently, while sensors prevent it from toppling over.

By using a single ball the robot can move in any direction and turn on the spot.The ball is guided in its rotation by three small wheels. They are in turn operated by electric motors.

Unlike androids with two legs or wheels, the device is stable even when it speeds around corners carrying heavy loads.

Simon Doessegger, Mechanical Engineering Student, said, "The ballbot has a very unique potential in motion. It is able to lean into curves and, because it's omni-directional, it means it can head in any direction at any time. The ball itself is driven by three "omni-wheels" which are propelled by three electrical motors. On the top, you see the body, with all the computers on it, and the battery, which is the heaviest part of all, is at the top."

All the while sophisticated sensors measure the robot's position 160 times a second to ensure it doesn't fall and smash to the ground.

The students are working on placing a smooth, specially designed fabric shell on it. This will make the ballbot more attractive to users by giving it a large bowling pin appearance.

The ballbot has near-human reactions, and it can be programmed to follow people, keep a set distance or respond to a prod.

In addition to its potential application as a household helper, it could also serve one day as a mobile tourist guide, taking advantage of its stability when moving in a crowd.

The ballbot was presented at the world's largest robotics fair in Munich, Germany, earlier this year.


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