BugJuggler is a 70 ft (21 m) tall robot that its designers claim will hurl full-size cars into the sky and catch them again in mid-air. Designed to use a diesel generator, enormous hydraulic rams, and hydraulic accumulators to allow for rapid movements, BugJuggler will not only be impressively large, but exceptionally agile for its size.
To merely call this robot "large" however, is like saying that the universe is just "big." Large only begins to describe the list of adjectives required to label this mechanical monster. Stupendous, enormous, and gigantic are three that immediately spring to mind.
At 70 ft in height and constructed from gigantic pieces of steel, this leviathan would have to weigh in the region of hundreds of tons, and require incredible strength to absorb the forces generated by hurling cars into the air and catching them again. An ordinary crane lifting similar masses straight up is subject to very large amounts of strain in one direction; BugJuggler will need to cope with much higher kinetic forces and huge rotating masses moving at speeds and angles much greater than that which an ordinary crane ever has to cope with.
However, the designers are confident that they can build this gargantuan automaton and have it perform juggling acts with cars for the entertainment of people attending the likes of smash-up derbies, state fairs, and monster truck displays. Given that the design team has constructed mechanisms for experiments on several Space Shuttle flights – one Is the co-inventor of three NASA/JPL patents – and that they have designed, built and operated equipment for the James Bond movie The Living Daylights, they probably have more of a chance of achieving this than most.
The team says that an operator with professional juggling experience will be located in the robot’s "head" and will control its motions using an interface with haptic feedback coupled to high-speed servo valves to operate the hydraulics. As previously mentioned, hydraulic accumulators – acting as storage batteries for the hydraulic fluid – will supposedly allow for the sufficiently rapid and smooth movements required for the robot to juggle cars or other large, heavy objects.
BugJuggler, so named because the designers envisage it juggling Volkswagen Beetles or, is estimated by the team to cost in the region of US$2.3 million to construct. They are currently actively pursuing funding from private investors, joint ventures, revenue sharing and other avenues. Interested parties are welcome to contact them via their website.
No build date has been confirmed for this vehicle-tossing behemoth, though construction has apparently already started on a small-scale single arm robotic juggler. According to the designers, this prototype will be capable of throwing and catching 250 lb (100 kg) items under the control of an operator wearing a feedback-enabled "control sleeve," and will be finished once sufficient funds are secured.
The short video below shows an animated version of BugJuggler in action.