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Japanese researchers develop six-legged "Asterisk" robot that can pick up objects

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December 19, 2011

The six limbs, symmetrically spaced at 60-degree intervals around its body, give the Aster...

The six limbs, symmetrically spaced at 60-degree intervals around its body, give the Asterisk robot its name

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Fans of the sci-fi film Minority Report will no doubt recall the autonomous insect-like searcher robots deployed to find Tom Cruise's character mid-way through the flick. While not as elegant (or sinister) as its film counterparts, the Asterisk robot being developed by the Arai Robotics Lab at Osaka University in Japan does an excellent job of resembling a big, mechanical bug with some interesting skills. After over six years of development, this unusual "limb-mechanism" robot now boasts an impressive array of functions that may soon find it performing vital tasks in numerous areas of society, including search and rescue and building maintenance.

Viewed from the top down, the reason behind the name "Asterisk" becomes self-evident, although a mechanical insect also comes to mind, which is not surprising as its creators looked to the insect world for inspiration when designing the robot. The six limbs, symmetrically spaced at 60-degree intervals around its body, each have four degrees of freedom and enable the robot to move in virtually any direction. It has no designated top or bottom so If it gets flipped upside-down, the legs reorient and it goes on about its business.

The Asterisk robot looks very much like its namesake  (Image: Arai Lab)

Asterisk gets a handle on its environment through the use of several different types of feedback: the tips of all the limbs sport pressure sensors; three have infrared sensors and three have tip-mounted wireless cameras. On the body, a gyro sensor, an accelerometer and three CCD cameras round out its senses. On a single charge of its 14.4 V lithium polymer battery, the 8.8 lb (4 kg) "robo-bug" can do its thing for about 15 minutes. No doubt longer function time is in the works as R+D continues.

Currently, Asterisk can walk (up to 0.5 m/sec or 1.64 ft/s) or roll on wheel-equipped legs, recognize stairs, pick up objects ("prey") with two of its six legs, safely push a polygonal prism load, avoid obstacles, walk upside down or vertically on gridded surfaces and even do cartwheels! It can also shift into a low-profile configuration (3 in / 78 mm high) to get into tight spaces - ideal for one of its intended uses as an extra set of eyes in disaster situations. That's a lot of ability in such a small package - one which, with any luck, may be helping to save lives some day soon.

Source: Arai Lab via DigInfo

Check out the video below to see the Asterisk in action at the 2011 International Robot Exhibition:

About the Author
Randolph Jonsson A native San Franciscan, Randolph attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland before finding his way to the film business. Eventually, he landed a job at George Lucas' Industrial Light + Magic, where he worked on many top-grossing films in both the camera and computer graphics departments. A proud member of MENSA, he's passionate about technology, optimal health, photography, marine biology, writing, world travel and the occasional, well-crafted gin and tonic!   All articles by Randolph Jonsson
3 Comments

It just me, or does this remind others of the "spider" robot on "Johnny Quest"? What would Race say?

Burnerjack
20th December, 2011 @ 02:38 pm PST

"Tachikoma have four legs and two arms. They can move by walking, or they can drive at high speed by using the wheeled footpads on each of their four legs. Each wheel appears to be angled and omnidirectional, allowing the Tachikomas to move in any direction with their drive system, which can control all degrees of freedom in its task space. Other abilities of the Tachikoma include jumping great distances, sticking to vertical or inverted surfaces, engaging a thermoptic camouflage mechanism, and grappling/rappelling using their adhesive string launchers. Tachikoma maintain control of their legs while using wheels to drive down a road, and shift their weight around turns. They can also roll briefly on to two legs while driving to avoid an obstacle or pass through a narrow space. "

Description of the Tacikomas from the Ghost In The Shell -- Stand alone Complex series. (Wikipedia)

Sound familiar?

Wombat56
20th December, 2011 @ 05:01 pm PST

What, this thing has to be tethered after ten years? Hahaha

Paul Anthony
21st December, 2011 @ 02:36 pm PST
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