Researchers at the SIM Group of TU Darmstadt and the Locomotion Laboratory of Jena University are working on an ambitious new project they hope will display heel-to-toe walking like Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN.
They’re planning to build a series of evolving BioBipeds; musculoskeletal robots that incorporate elasticity to achieve energy efficient standing, walking, and running.
They’ve only built the BioBiped1 so far, but it is already displaying some impressive hopping capabilities (as you’ll see in the following videos). This kind of hopping produces the same sort of stresses as a light jog, so it is a pretty good indication that the robot will be jogging on a treadmill in the future.
Each leg has four joints (hip x2, knee x1, ankle x1) actuated by a combination of both active motors and passive springs based on the muscles and tendons found in a human leg. The springiness of the legs means the robot can passively rebound when it lands on its feet. Eventually a more sophisticated upper-body with arms may be added, and various foot mechanisms will be evaluated. Currently the robot is restricted to moving up and down, but future versions will gradually introduce more freedom until it is able to stand on its own.
Video (one-legged hopping):
More details on the project, including research papers, can be located via the source link.
[source: BioBiped] via [BioBiped @ YouTube]
CITEC Bielefeld’s anthropomorphic robot head FloBi has been upgraded with a cheap and simple motion-capture setup. You’ll recall that FloBi is an expressive head with modular parts that allows you to insert different sections of the head to create a male or female robot.
The mo-cap setup is a helmet with a single camera pointed at your face. It tracks your eyes, eyelids, brows, and mouth using color markers while an X-IMU (intertial measurement unit) detects overall head rotation. The recorded motion can be viewed using a virtual model or played back on the actual robot. This means rather than having to animate each segment of the robot’s face by hand (which can also lead to unnatural expressions) all of the motion can be recorded quickly and easily from a real person.
The result is a robot face that, despite being quite simple in appearance, is convincingly lifelike due to its realistic eye movements. The lips aren’t quite malleable to accurately recreate lip-synching, but given the technical limitations of the robot head, and the simple motion-capture solution they’ve created, I’d say they have been pretty successful. If you compare FloBi’s expressions to those of KIST’s MERO and you’ll see quite a difference in realism.
[source: CITECBielefeld @ YouTube]
A plastic part becomes a work of art with 3DCC’s services
Lately I’ve been thinking about having 3D prints made of some of my digital sculptures, and what kind of surface finish I want them to have. As I began looking at various 3D printing service bureaus, it became clear that if I wanted to have a model printed in metal, my options were pretty limited and expensive. Luckily there are a few other options if you want a metallic look to your print.
At Shapeways you can get your models printed in stainless steel and sterling silver. One of the issues with 3D printing are the visible lines left on the model due to the printing process itself, and stainless steel models have noticeable artifacts which I want to avoid. However, this method may be appropriate for your project depending on the surface quality you’re after. If you’re interested in making jewelry, Shapeways’ sterling silver prints seem like the way to go. The main problem for me (besides the price) is that technical limitations prevent larger sculptures from being made.
One solution might be a company called 3DCC (located in England) which provides metal coating for plastic parts in a variety of materials. The result is a metallic coat that not only looks great, but strengthens the part at a fraction of the cost of other methods. One thing to consider is that 3DCC’s process doesn’t work so well on parts with a waxy finish, like those seen at Moddler. While it is still possible to metal plate these, it’s a time consuming process to remove the waxy top layer and sandfinish such complex structures. The company suggests printing models using a higher end SLA material (Stereolithography) to achieve the best results – since the metal coat doesn’t hide any imperfections (print lines).
Another option would be to print a model and have a foundry create a casting. One of Shapeways’ customers offers casting services via Union Steam Models – just finish the printed part to your liking and ship it to them to have a bronze casting made. Finally, if you’re just looking for a metallic look to your part, a company called Offload Studios provides a variety of faux-metal finishes. I’m still considering my options, but I thought that some of you who print parts for robots might be interested in the sleek metallic finish 3DCC can offer. It would certainly look pretty awesome on a robot!
If you’ve grown tired of zombie fiction thanks to the glut of zombie-themed movies, tv shows, and books that have surfaced in the past few years, don’t worry. It seems the zombies are on the way out, soon to be replaced by equally creepy humanoid robots. When you think about it both zombies and realistic androids share a lot in common: they’re soulless killing machines that look like they could be your neighbor, and their very existence will lead to the apocalypse. An interesting difference is that often the robots, not people, are the victims in their stories.
It was pretty obvious that zombies were running out of steam back when Pride and Prejudice with Zombies became a thing. Stragglers trying to profit off the zombie bandwagon late in the game have managed some success, like AMC’s The Walking Dead. There’s even a zombie romance coming out this year called Warm Bodies, which will hopefully put the final nail in the coffin. The mainstream popularity of these things is cyclical, and thanks to Spielberg picking up the movie rights to Robopocalypse, and a slew of new robot-themed movies and tv shows surfacing lately, robot fiction is already taking over for better or worse.