Experiments with Wheeled Legs

Building an experimental walking+rolling robot, to more efficiently kill all humans and thus solve all the problems.

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Robots with wheels at the ends of the legs, capable of both walking and rolling, are as old an idea as the oldest mecha anime, or even older. More recently, you can see them in many real world uses -- practically all robots during the DARPA Robot Challenge 2015 had both wheels and legs, and the most recent robot revealed by Boston Dynamics, nicknamed Handle, is also a wheeled+legged robot.

Sure, there are problems with it. The legs become much more complex and heavier, there are problems with power transmission, the wheels themselves are often too small to really be efficient, etc. Plus, we really don't have a lot of experience with such robots and the ways they could utilize their hybrid transportation system better.

In this project, I'm going to be experimenting with a number of different configurations for robots that can both roll (to efficiently travel over flat surfaces) and walk (to negotiate obstacles and narrow passages), and maybe sometimes even both at the same time. I will be using the walking robots that I have already built as a base, but I foresee a lot of modifications for them to experimentally see what they are capable of.

Why does it matter? If we want to have robots that actually do useful work for us, and not just stand there bolted down to the factory floor, or beep for help like a stuck roomba, we need to give them means of locomotion that is both energetically efficient and versatile in both of the terrain that can be covered. Hopefully this will lead to a relatively simple and cheap construction that is nevertheless a good base for a home robot.

  • Possible Configurations

    Radomir Dopieralski03/28/2017 at 22:06 0 comments

    There are many possible ways of making a robot that can both roll on the wheels and walk. My "logikoma" robot uses one that is particularly popular in the Science Fiction pop culture recently -- wheels at the ends of the legs, but it's not necessarily the best one. For humanoid (or more generally, bipedal) robots the popular options are either having roller skates, or wheels both on feet and knees.

    But the wheels don't actually have to be attached to the legs! You can have mostly separate mobility systems, something like those cranes or excavators, that have additional supports for when they are deployed -- except in this case the supports would be actual legs and would allow walking. Or even the whole robot itself could be the wheel (a la Sphero), but have additional legs folded inside, which it could deploy to get through rougher terrain.

    I'm not going to be able to explore all those options, but even just drawing them lets me think better about what could work in the case of a small to medium robot operating indoors.

  • Starting Point

    Radomir Dopieralski03/21/2017 at 17:09 0 comments

    At the moment the only legged+wheeled robot I have is #Logicoma-kun. It's more or less finished structurally (it still lacks a lot of detail that I want to eventually add to it), and it has the electronics installed, but as of yet I haven't had the time to program it. It has an ESP8266 as the brain and I will use MicroPython for programming.

    I have some videos of its early prototype rolling:

    and walking:

    but that's a 5-line Arduino sketch doing the hardcoded animations. Proper programming will require considerable effort (that's why I haven't even started).

    Apart from that, I will be also building other prototypes to test some simpler approaches that I have in mind.

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Ulysse wrote 4 days ago point

I like it realy. Nice !

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Simon Merrett wrote 04/12/2017 at 08:33 point

Are you open to including whegs in your scope? I was very interested in the idea of a wheg that can be modulated for smoother obstacle crossing and greater capability that Jayden Edwards started looking at: 

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Radomir Dopieralski wrote 04/12/2017 at 09:51 point

I'm a huge fan of the RHEX robot, but in this particular project I'm aiming for more precise and accurate control.

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Morning.Star wrote 03/21/2017 at 10:52 point

Well timed, like it.

Make sure you dont give that the wrong oil... ;-)

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Radomir Dopieralski wrote 03/21/2017 at 12:44 point

I only use organic oil for my AIs!

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