IMPASS Wheel-Leg Hybrid Robot
by CurtisEllzey, EngineeringTV | Submitted Saturday Oct 18, 2008 [11:51 AM]
IMPASS is a wheel-leg hybrid robot that can walk in unstructured environments by independently extending, or retracting, three actuated spokes on each wheel. IMPASS stands for Intelligent Mobility Platform with Actuated Spoke System. The robot has been under development by the Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech, a facility for graduate and undergraduate robotics research and education with an emphasis on studying novel mobile robot locomotion strategies.
The IMPASS robot will use rimless wheels with spokes that can lengthen or shorten according to terrain. IMPASS, which stands for Intelligent Mobility Platform with Active Spoke System, is under development at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
IMPASS robot in action (Credit: Engadget)
According to one of the developers, engineer Dennis Hong, the spoke wheel concept "allows multiple modes of motion, which give it the ability to stride quickly using one contact point per wheel, walk with static stability with two contact points per wheel, or assume a stable stance using three contact points per wheel." Hong designed the system along with colleague Doug Laney.
Legs work better when negotiating very rough terrain, but are often slower than wheeled vehicles on smooth surfaces. The IMPASS system tries for the best of both worlds; the three spokes can be made to lengthen or shorten independently, allowing the robot to adjust itself to overcome obstructions. Turning can be done by varying spoke length as well.
Neal Stephenson, in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, writes about this very same idea - he calls them smart wheels and puts them on skateboards:
Smart wheels use sonar, laser range finding and millimeter wave radar to identify mufflers and other debris. Each one consists of a hub with many tiny spokes. Each spoke telescopes into five sections. On the end is a squat foot, rubber tread on the bottom, swiveling on a ball joint. As the wheel rolls, the feet plant themselves one at a time, almost glomming into one continuous tire...
People who read this, also read...
back to top