Sure, you can build a robot that climbs up a tube, but can you do it with little more than a cell phone vibrator? The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon has created one of the simplest but most effective climbing bots I’ve seen in a long time. The people at ICRA thought so too. They made the video of the “Minimalist, Dynamic, Tube Climbing Robot” one of their finalists for the recent 2010 conference in Alaska. Check it out below. Gotta love simplicity.
What sets Carnegie Mellon’s vibrating climbing robot apart is that it doesn’t require any sort of hairs, claws, or other gripping mechanisms. An eccentric motor knocks the robot back and forth inside the tube, and o-rings direct the force of the motion to propel the bot upwards. Dead simple, but very effective. It can climb up to speeds of 25 centimeters per second and can lift up to five times its own weight (though not both at the same time). Better still, the robot falls easily down the tube once it stops vibrating, allowing for easy retrieval.
The robot wasn’t built with a particular application in mind. In fact, few of the many unique projects at the Robotics Institute that focus on dynamic climbing seem to have near term uses. All of these machines, however, are providing some meaningful insights into how robots can and should move. Don’t be surprised if the lessons learned from eccentric motors are eventually applied to bipedal locomotion, jumping or some other more mainstream robotic project. Even if it never does anything else but move inside tubes, I’m pretty impressed with this little robot. Disagree? Let me know when you can climb five times your body length in a second.
[image credit: Dynamic Climbing Lab/Carnegie Mellon]
[source: Dynamic Climbing Lab]