The bot can build its own tracks up in the air and traverse on them, making it easy to move forward on uneven terrain. (Image Credit: zarrouk lab)
Researchers from Ben Gurion University in Israel have developed a new mobile robot, called the RCTR (Reconfigurable Continuous Track Robot), which can build its own track in the air while moving forward. The RTCR has the ability to change its body shape on a link-by-link basis, using an extra actuator to create the track. This allows the robot to maneuver on different terrains and obstacles. The team presented their findings in a paper.
The robot has been fitted with a regular propulsion motor, along with a locking mechanism located at the front. With the unique design, the links are capable of rotating between -20 to +40 degrees or being locked at zero or +20 degrees relative to each other as they reach the front of the robot. This allows the robot to go from flexible to stiff. To keep the robot from getting tangled up in its own tracks, a release mechanism passively unlocks the links to reset the track’s flexibility as it passes over the top. This causes the top links to become unlocked, and the bottom links remain locked. By using this approach, the robot can climb stairs and move around obstacles pretty effectively.
One of the downsides of this robot is that it doesn’t have the ability to steer. Adding a steering feature to the robot wouldn’t be too hard, but it would require a complete hardware redesign. Though, if the robot were to have a steering mechanism, it could use a pair of tracks and skid-steering. Currently, the researchers are working on a locomotion planning algorithm that will help the robot traverse on different types of terrain. In order to achieve this, the team is possibly using a combination of rigid and flexible links to apply to different obstacles.
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