Designers of Giant Robot Hope for Imitators
A concept drawing of Stompy, a drive-able, six-legged robot, showing its size relative to a car.
CREDIT: Project Hexapod
Wait until you see the view from this driver's seat.
Researchers have begun building a drivable robot named Stompy that will have six legs and will be large enough to walk over cars. Moreover, they want to make it possible for robotics hobbyists to make one for themselves.
Besides the "wow" factor, the creation of Stompy is meant to make it technically possible and affordable for groups of non-experts to build giant robots, according to Stompy's Kickstarter page. Its designers say they will hand out their diagrams.
"The bigger goal is to encourage others to start building things on this scale and to enable people to build robots like this," said James Whong, one of Stompy's lead engineers. Whong is also a professional robotics researcher, although Stompy is not a project of his company or of any of his colleagues'.
As the first of Stompy's legs is being welded together, Whong and his team are in the process of raising $65,000 for the steel and electronics that would finish the project. Those who donate $300 or more will get to ride in Stompy when it's finished, estimated to be next May, the team says. As of this writing, Stompy's builders were $3,005 from their goal.
When finished, Stompy will weigh two tons (1,800 kilograms) and will have a chassis with two seats, for a driver and a friend. It will run on a 135-horsepower engine that powers hydraulic legs that work much the same way forklifts or backhoes do.
The machine monster is designed to be 10 to 100 times cheaper to build than comparable professional robots, and its creators have promised that once they have their first design up and running, they'll release their diagrams, class lectures, computer codes and other materials for free. Stompy's lead engineers are all Boston-area roboticists who have worked on projects such as robotic arms or U.S. military-commissioned all-terrain bots. They unveiled their plans in the spring, when they started an adult-education class in Somerville, Mass., on the topic of building large robots.
So far, the class has created the designs for low-cost, computer-controlled legs; a computer program to test Stompy virtually; and a full-size version of Stompy's engine. Team members started work on assembling and welding a full-size leg yesterday (Aug. 12). [10 Animal-Inspired Robots]
The class's latest blog post shows one small way they're making Stompy and Stompy-like robots easier for non-experts to assemble. The metal pieces of one of the robot's thighs have tabs to hold the pieces together before welding.
"Having the tabs makes assembly roughly a bajillion (technical term) times easier," M@ Dunlap, one of the students, wrote. "It's like assembling something from Ikea."
To keep costs down, the team plans to use surplus hydraulic parts from companies that supply parts for backhoes and bulldozers, Whong told InnovationNewsDaily. Another major money-saver is the fact that everyone is donating his time to the project, instead of commanding the usual engineer salaries. "Right now, this is a labor of love and a passion-based project," Whong said.
If Stompy is funded and completed and its plans are released, people wouldn't necessarily need a background in robotics to make another Stompy, Whong said. However, "from a safety standpoint, some experience with heavy machinery is a must. These are very, very powerful actuators and can be extremely dangerous."
He's eager to see that Stompy isn't alone. "We want to see more big robots like this."