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Power of batteries keeps tetherless robot hopping

07 October 2016

Disney researchers have figured out how to build a one-legged hopping robot that does not require a connection to an external motor or power source.

Image courtesy of Disney Research

Joohyung Kim, Katsu Yamane and Zachary Batts managed to create a light, efficient robot weighing less than 2.3kg and about 1ft in height. The robot can maintain its balance for approximately seven seconds or 19 hops but the researchers hope an increase in on-board computing power could increases the ‘hoppage’. 

“Many hoppers have been hydraulic devices. But hydraulic actuation requires off-board motors and is energetic enough to pose issues outside of a controlled laboratory environment” said Yamane. 

The researchers designed a linear elastic actuator in parallel, or LEAP, to serve as the leg. This helps the robot achieve the high-speed, high-force actuation necessary to make it hop using electrical power.

The leg is connected to a body that contains the battery source, sensors and other electronics. The angle of the leg is adjusted at each hop using two servo motors to make sure the upper body stays levels. The torso is about twice as heavy as the leg, whereas most hoppers have torsos that are much heavier compared to the leg, helping them achieve a dynamic balance. 

Video courtesy of Disney Research.

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