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Friday, July 26, 2013

RHex the ‘Parkour robot’ shows off its ability to handle various obstacles in the wild

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screenshot from University of Penn vid
Madison Ruppert

The University of Pennsylvania’s Kod*lab has developed an amazingly nimble hexapedal “Parkour robot” dubbed RHex, shown successfully handling various obstacles in the latest video.

RHex is “biologically inspired,” according to the university, which is an increasingly common trend in robotics.

Biologically inspired robots range from giant autonomous jellyfish to tiny flying robot insects to larger drones modeled after insects which are even capable of carrying out lethal missions to drones modeled after owls and other birds to robots modeled after cheetahs and cats to robots modeled after humans.

The most impressive part of the video demonstrating RHex (embedded below) is that it is not performed in a perfectly controlled laboratory environment.

Instead, the robot is shown navigating everyday obstacles around the University of Pennsylvania campus.

It is shown running, jumping, flipping, grabbing on to edges and more. The researchers believe that it will eventually be used in rescue applications.

The idea for the robot was first presented in 2001 as part of a large consortium funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

A wide range of RHex platforms have been developed over the past 12 years, with the University of Pennsylvania being especially active in development.

The platform uses six legs, each driven by a single rotary actuator. The legs are springy, producing an energetic running motion.

The legs are all controlled by a central computer which receives either user commands or feedback from sensors to determine how the six legs move.

“Lately the project has been mostly focused on higher order autonomy for the RHex robot, incorporating additional sensors for robust state estimation, visual navigation, and obstacle avoidance, as well as greater dexterity in controlling its legs to climb over and through obstacle fields,” the University of Pennsylvania explains.

The platforms currently being used for research are the X-RHex and X-RHex Lite (XRL), which is the one shown in the video.

X-RHex is “designed for robust operation in complex, natural, outdoor terrain, and is the first RHex to feature a modular payload system,” according to the University of Pennsylvania.

XRL, on the other hand, is a lighter, more agile version of X-RHex, but it also boasts a modular payload system.

Some of the potential payloads include an additional computer, GPS, LIDAR and a camera array.

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This article first appeared at End the Lie.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on UCYTV Monday nights 7 PM - 9 PM PT/10 PM - 12 AM ET. Show page link here:http://UCY.TV/EndtheLie. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at

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