Monday, July 29, 2013
RHex, a Robot That Does Parkour
RHex is an all-terrain walking robot that could one day climb over rubble in a rescue mission or cross the desert with environmental sensors strapped to its back.
Pronounced "Rex," like the over-excited puppy it resembles when it is bounding over the ground, RHex is short for "robot hexapod," a name that stems from its six springy legs.
Legs have an advantage over wheels when it comes to rough terrain, but the articulated legs often found on walking robots require complex, specialized instructions for each moving part. To get the most mobility out of RHex's simple, one-jointed legs, Penn researchers are essentially teaching the robot Parkour. Taking inspiration from human free-runners, the team is showing the robot how to manipulate its body in creative ways to get around all sorts of obstacles.
"What we want is a robot that can go anywhere, even over terrain that might be broken and uneven," Johnson says. "These latest jumps greatly expand the range of what this machine is capable of, as it can now jump onto or across obstacles that are bigger than it is."