Researchers at the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) at the University California at Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed a prototype robot they claim cannot fall.
Witnessing how earlier robots had difficult staying upright due to their size, build and weight, the team looked into the feasibility of creating a very light prototype that uses stability mechanisms in the hopes that it could bolster robots for widespread use and interaction with humans.
What they came up with is called Buoyancy Assisted Lightweight Legged Unit, or BALLU. The buoyancy device consists of helium-filled balloons in the upper body that make it stable at all times and prevents the robot from falling. While RoMeLa says the robot is not lighter than air and will not float, it buoys the lightweight legs that are attached to keep the robot upright and in a standing posture.
The robot’s actuation, communication and power components are built into the feet and make up the majority of the device’s mass. The prototype has only two degrees of freedom, one per leg, but can still walk forwards, walk backwards, step sideways, turn, hop and other motions. RoMeLa says this is achieved through correct timing of the actuation in each knee with consideration for momentum, drag, joint velocity, joint friction and joint elasticity.
RoMeLa says the hope is that this prototype can be used to potentially advance various aspects of human-robot interaction.