One-armed HyQ robot can knock obstacles out of its way

Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:30am EST
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By Matthew Stock

Quadruped robots could soon be an important tool for replacing humans in dangerous situations. The maneuverability of advanced four-legged robots means they can navigate uneven terrain and could aid rescue efforts and disaster recovery scenarios.

No matter how agile a legged robot is, however, their role has traditionally been limited to load carrying or observation tasks.

A team of robotics engineers from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa have designed a robotic arm that they've attached to one of their flagship HyQ quadruped robots in order to give it manipulation capabilities.

According to Claudio Semini, head of the Dynamic Legged Systems (DLS) lab, future quadruped robots operating in real-world applications will most likely need a degree of manual dexterity.

"For us, it was natural to start to design also an arm, and then the plan is to build two arms and have them both on the robot to create a 'centaur' style of robot. And with the two arms the robot can be deployed to the real area where it needs to do any maintenance work or turn a valve in a rescue scenario or pick up a sample in a contaminated area or just clean up radioactive materials; there's a lot of potential future applications where manipulation is really important," Semini told Reuters.

Eventually, their centaur-style robot will consist of a quadruped locomotion platform and a pair of arms. Currently, the team is testing one prototype arm attached to the front of the four-legged robot. To demonstrate how the HyQ-Centaur could operate, an obstacle is placed in its path with the robot arm being remotely controlled to knock it out of the way.

The hydraulically actuated arm was designed by PhD student Bilal Ur Rehman who explained that the arm not only adds dexterity to the robot but can aid its maneuverability.

"Right now this arm can carry 10 kg when it's fully extended. It's total weight is 12.5 kg, so it can almost carry the same external load as its own weight. It's also pretty fast with the hydraulics speeds. You can use it as a counter force if you apply an external force on the body of the robot. You can use the arm as a tail as well to counter the external forces," said Rehman.   Continued...