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October 13, 2018

Kill it before it lays eggs! Crazy 32-leg robot moves like a cyborg sea urchin

by John_A

We’ve written about one-legged, two-legged, four-legged and even six-legged robots, but researchers from Japan’s Keio University and the University of Tokyo have gone way, way further with their latest project: A 32-legged robot. Called Mochibot, the spherical robot moves by telescoping its individual legs, thereby pushing it wherever it needs to go. When it needs to remain still, it levels out all of its legs, keeping it stable on the ground. This movement is reminiscent of a creature like a sea urchin.

Each of Mochibot’s legs is composed of three sliding rails. These can extend to a maximum of 1.6 feet in length or shrink down to half that. The advantage of using this method of locomotion is that it should, in theory, make it much easier to move on challenging surfaces. That’s because Mochibot can essentially deform itself as it travels across the terrain, thereby giving it a leg up (pun kinda intended!) on robots which are stuck balancing on fewer legs. Presumably, it could also risk losing or damaging multiple legs, while still retaining the ability to move. The robot’s legs can additionally be modified to include cameras, sensors, or sampling devices for taking measurements.

The Mochibot robot’s unusual shape is referred to as a rhombic triacontahedron, a polyhedron with 32 vertices and 30 faces made of rhombuses. It weighs 22 pounds including its batteries and could carry a payload in its central section. Will a robot such as this ever launch as a commercial product? It is perhaps too early to tell, although we can certainly see potential applications in search and rescue missions, military transport, or even possibly exploring other planets. With that in mind, the researchers who created it are next planning to carry out more experiments with different types of terrain. Should Mochibot be able to successfully climb up and down slopes or roll over uneven, rock-covered surfaces, it will be interesting to see where the project goes from here.

The researchers recently presented a paper describing the work, titled “Continuous Shape Changing Locomotion of 32-legged Spherical Robot,” at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots (IROS 2018) in Madrid, Spain.

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