Move over Spot, there's a new four-legged flipping robot in town. Boston Dynamic's dog-like droid has some new, friendly competition in the form of a quadruped built by undergraduate students at Stanford University, who have made the designs open source with the aim of encouraging advances through low-cost robotics.
Simply named Doggo, the new robot is the product of the Stanford Student Robotics club's Extreme Mobility team, which set out to develop an affordable robot that could be reproduced with relative ease. The team points to similar robot designs that use bespoke parts and cost tens of thousands of dollars as an example of how sometimes cutting edge robotics systems can be beyond the reach of many researchers.
"We had seen these other quadruped robots used in research, but they weren't something that you could bring into your own lab and use for your own projects," said Nathan Kau, a mechanical engineering major and lead for Extreme Mobility. "We wanted Stanford Doggo to be this open source robot that you could build yourself on a relatively small budget."
To that end, the Stanford Doggo is built almost entirely from off-the-shelf components at a cost of less than US$3,000. It pulls off its various maneuvers with the help of motors and external force sensors, which make 8,000 calculations per second to decide how much force and torque to apply through each leg.
While it took around two years of refinements and trial and error, this now enables the robot to pull of an impressive array of moves. First and foremost, it can maintain a steady gait and walk across uneven terrain. It can also perform what the team calls a signature move, a bouncing dance-like maneuver that makes it appear as if it has internal springs, when it relies only on its motors and moving legs to create that visual effect.
But the team was most impressed by Doggo's jumping skills. They realized without really prioritizing the action, the robot was capable of jumping two feet (60 cm) into the air. By then tuning the software again and again, team members were able to have it jump 3.5 ft (100 cm) into the air, and from there, they were able to have it pull off backflips.
But the hopes and dreams of the team don't end it with a backflip or two. The open-source approach means that the researchers have made detailed plans, the code, and the list of necessary components available online for free, for anyone who wants a robotic Doggo of their own.
"We're hoping to provide a baseline system that anyone could build," said Patrick Slade, graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics and mentor for Extreme Mobility. "Say, for example, you wanted to work on search and rescue, you could outfit it with sensors and write code on top of ours that would let it climb rock piles or excavate through caves. Or maybe it's picking up stuff with an arm or carrying a package."
The team is also hard at work on a second generation Doggo, which will be larger and more advanced.
You can see the original do its thing in the video below.
Source: Stanford University
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