Project Hexapod is aiming to make the construction of large scale robots cheaper and easier for hobbyists with Stompy - an 18 ft (5.5 m) wide, 4,000 pound (1800 kg), 6-legged hydraulic robot that you can ride. The Massachusetts-based team behind the project has already made significant progress with the giant robot and are looking to raise funds to complete the ambitious build before making it "open hardware" by releasing all of the plans, diagrams and the list of materials used in the construction to anyone brave enough to build one of their own.
Hobbyist robotics is more popular and affordable than ever, but RC servos place a limit on the size of robot a hobbyist can build. The creators aim to change this by sharing their knowledge and they estimate that the construction and control techniques that they’re using will drop the cost of controlled hydraulics by an “order of magnitude or two from where they are now."
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So far, the team has developed a low cost computer controlled hydraulic joint design, constructed and tested a half-scale prototype leg and have the engine and hydraulic power unit for the full-scale robot successfully up and running. They’ve also designed 80 percent of the final robot’s chassis and are currently working on a full-scale prototype leg. The project expects to be ready to start constructing the full-scale robot by the end of their four-week Kickstarter fund raising campaign. It will take around eight months to construct.
The robot isn't just an overcooked fair ride though - it has practical purposes as well. With six force-sensitive legs and a ground clearance of 6 feet (1.8 m), the robot will be able to walk over broken terrain, water ... almost everywhere existing ground vehicles can't go. Not only that, but while navigating such terrain, Stompy could carry 1,000 pounds (450 kg) at 2-3 mph (3-5 km/h), and up to 4,000 pounds at 1 mph. These abilities could be applied to rescue scenarios like the aftermath of earthquakes and other natural disasters.
The US$65,000 funding target for the project covers the construction cost of the robot. Each of the six legs will reportedly cost around $6,000, with the 1,000 pound body accounting for the other $29,000. If the project takes off and exceeds its funding goal, the team has some even more ambitious plans. At $95,000 and $125,000, a number of upgrades will be applied to the robot. These include new sensors that allow it to better negotiate difficult terrain and a “Flair Upgrade” that gives Stompy an animatronic head, paint job, sound system and (safety review pending) flame effects.
If the project manages to raise the lofty sum of US$300,000, the robot’s creators will buy a waterjet cutter and open it up for public use. They’ll also create a company devoted to developing open-source, high-end robotic technology, and any money left over will be placed in a bank account reserved for seed funding for future projects.
The fund raising period for Stompy will continue until September 2, 2012. So if the prospect of riding a giant, six-legged, hydraulic robot sounds like your kind of thing, then head over to the project's Kickstarter page to get involved.
Project Hexapod's Kickstarter pitch can be seen in the video below.