Walking Robot That Doesn’t Need Any Electronics

A team of students under the supervision of Michael T. Tolley, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, San Diego have designed a four-legged controllable robot that doesn’t need any electronics to operate. The robot requires a steady source of pressurized air for all its operations, including its controls and motion systems.

According to Dylan Drotman (Ph.D. student in Tolley’s analysis group and the paper’s first author), this effort signifies a crucial yet significant action towards self-governing, electronics-free moving robots. It comprises low-cost robotics for fun, such as games, and robots that can function in situations where electronics are restricted. Soft robots are of distinct interest as they quickly accommodate their surroundings and act carefully near humans.

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Most robots are pushed by pressurized air and are guided by electronic circuits. Furthermore, these robots include parts like circuit boards, valves, and pumps — usually outside the robot’s body. These parts consist of robot’s minds and neurotic system, are typically heavy and valuable.

However, this robot is regulated by a light-weight, low-cost mode of pneumatic paths, made up of pipes and light valves. The robot can move in response to commands or signals it senses from its surroundings. With this strategy, anyone could make a complex robotic brain. However, Tolley’s team aims to build the most effortless neurotic system that can be used to control the motion.

The robot’s computational ability closely simulates mammalian reflexes that are operated by a neural reaction from the spine instead of the brain. The team was excited by neural paths observed in animals, called central pattern generators, composed of extremely simple components that can produce rhythmic patterns to analyze motions like walking and moving.

To simulate the generator’s operation, engineers developed an arrangement of valves that function as oscillators, regulating the amount of pressurized air that invades air-powered muscles in the robot’s four legs. Scientists developed a futuristic element that regulates the robot’s motion by preventing the shot of pressurized air into the robot’s legs. The robot’s motion was influenced by side neck turtles.
The robot is also outfitted with uncomplicated power-driven sensors — small light bubbles loaded with liquid located at the end of booms pointing from the robot’s body. When the bubbles are pressed, the liquid flip a valve in the robot that prompts it to shift its direction.

Robot That Doesn't Need Any Electronics

How it Functions

The robot is outfitted with three valves operating as inverters that generate a forceful state to spread throughout the air-powered path, including a lag at each inverter.
All robot’s four legs consist of three degrees of freedom pushed by three muscles. The legs are angled earthward at 45 degrees and constituted three identical, combined pneumatic cylindrical containers with bellows. When the container is pressurized, the limb turns in the reverse orientation. As a result, the three containers of every limb give the multi-axis bending needed for walking. Engineers joined containers from every leg cornerwise from one another, ordering the controlling obstacle.

A light valve changes the direction of revolution of the limbs counterclockwise and clockwise. That valve serves as a latching double pole, double throw switch. The switch consists of two inputs and four outputs. Therefore, every input consists of two identical outputs. That device is small like getting two nerves and interchanging their links in the brain.

Journal Reference:

Dylan Drotman, David Sharp, Saurabh Jadhav, Michael T. Tolley, Christian Chan. Electronics-free pneumatic circuits for controlling soft-legged robotsScience Robotics, 2021; 6 (51): eaay2627 DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aay2627

Video Link (Robot That Doesn’t Need Any Electronics): Powered by Pressurized Air

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