Biomimetic Robotics Lab, Stanford University
As the name suggests, the Biomimetic Robotics Lab at Stanford University aims to develop a new breed of biologically-inspired robots that show greater performance in an unstructured environment, as compared to other similar robots. This robotics lab firmly believes that these robots will be significantly more compliant and stable when compared to today’s robots, and will also take advantage of new developments of materials, fabrications technologies, sensors, and actuators.
At the American laboratory, applications comprise of autonomous or semi-autonomous tasks like reconnaissance and de-mining for small, insect-like machines, as well as human interactions on a much larger scope.
Together with several robotics and physiology researchers at Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Harvard, and John Hopkins Universities, researchers hope that one day they will finally come to a robot that possesses the ability to mimic ape life or a biological system.
The Sprawl family of hand-sized hexapedal robots was developed at this laboratory. These robots are prototypes that were designed to test ideas regarding motion dynamics, leg designs, and arrangements, and to identify areas that could be enhanced by Shape Deposition Manufacturing.
According to reports released by the laboratory, these robots are capable of moving up to 5 body-lengths per second and are among the fastest and the most robust legged robots out there. The robots are the result of collaboration between roboticists, manufacturing engineers, and biologists.
The Sprawl robot also led to the development of several other robots of this type, including the first prototype that was created with SDM technology, pistons and servos that are embedded in its structure. This robot was called the Sprawlita robot.
Spawley Davidson, a prototype that has valves mounted directly above pistons, resulting in faster actuator speed, was also developed after the first prototype was created. Other robots that the lab has created include the SprawlEx robot, the Sprawlettes, and also the RiSE project.
Among its latest projects are the New Hydro-Sprawl robot, which uses a hydraulic system to actuate its alternating tripods and is the first autonomous robot in the Sprawl family. Also developed recently is the lab’s system that allows a user to actually feel what it is like to be a Sprawl Robot, the Sprawl-o-Vision technology.