Robotics

Ant-Roach illustrates potential for inflatable robots

Ant-Roach illustrates potentia...
Ant-Roach is a six-legged "pneubot," designed to showcase the capabilities of inflatable robots
Ant-Roach is a six-legged "pneubot," designed to showcase the capabilities of inflatable robots
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Central manifolds dispense compressed air to Ant-Roach's actuators, causing the legs to move
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Central manifolds dispense compressed air to Ant-Roach's actuators, causing the legs to move
At less than 70 pounds, one person can carry Ant-Roach when it's deflated
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At less than 70 pounds, one person can carry Ant-Roach when it's deflated
Ant-Roach is controlled by a program on a wirelessly-linked computer
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Ant-Roach is controlled by a program on a wirelessly-linked computer
Ant-Roach's legs move due to built-in textile-based actuators, that contract upon inflation
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Ant-Roach's legs move due to built-in textile-based actuators, that contract upon inflation
Ant-Roach is a six-legged "pneubot," designed to showcase the capabilities of inflatable robots
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Ant-Roach is a six-legged "pneubot," designed to showcase the capabilities of inflatable robots
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What weighs a little under 70 pounds, has six legs, and is full of air? No, it's not conjoined monkey triplets with gas - as you've doubtless already gathered from the picture, it's a walking inflatable robot known as Ant-Roach. Earning its name by looking like a cross between an anteater and a cockroach, the wonderfully-kooky beast is the creation of San Francisco-based engineering/design group Otherlab. Besides providing amusement, the device was built to showcase the high strength-to-weight ratios and carrying capacities that are possible with inflatable robots.

Although Ant-Roach is 15 feet (4.6 meters) long and can easily support the weight of several human riders at once, its sub-70-pound (32 kg) weight allows it to still be carried by one person - when it's deflated.

Its legs move due to built-in textile-based actuators, that contract upon inflation. That inflation, in turn, is made possible by several central manifolds, that dispense compressed air through pneumatic piping. The movements of the robot are dictated by an onboard microcontroller that wirelessly receives a signal from a laptop, which is running a control program.

Central manifolds dispense compressed air to Ant-Roach's actuators, causing the legs to move
Central manifolds dispense compressed air to Ant-Roach's actuators, causing the legs to move

Besides being strong yet light, portable, and able to carry heavy loads, inflatable robots would also likely be relatively inexpensive to produce on a commercial scale. Plus, at least in the case of Otherlab's example, they float on water! The technology shows enough promise that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) provided some of the funding for the development of Ant-Roach.

The video below shows the robot being put through its paces.

Source: Hizook

12_AntRoachLongWalk.mov

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5 comments
Mr Stiffy
It needs extendable feet / ankles ? To expand and contract - to put the foot down and raise it up to give ground clearance - synched with the leg stepping motion.
Paul Adams
Fill it with a lighter then air gas, make it bigger and give it wings as well! That might look quite cool.
Oztechi
The robot was a good first effort but lacked coordination and needed more grip on its feet. With some development, i\'m sure this could improve, but what is it useful for apart from a noisy children\'s attraction?
Kudos for thinking beyond the square.
jochair
It needa steps for a child to climb on and into the seat. The idea is great.
Gregg Eshelman
Next up, bring back the inflatable airplane. Goodyear Inflatoplane (GA468) Twelve were built in twelve weeks in 1956 and testing lasted through 1972.