Premiering in 2003, the Combots Cup is a continuation of the sport of robot combat started by the television show BattleBots which aired from 2000 to 2002. Even though the television show was deemed unprofitable, the idea of robot combat sparked the passion of the competitors which have been hosting the Combots Cup and Robo Games robot Olympics for the last 10 years. Interestingly enough, they still use the same style arena, rules and weight classes of the original BattleBots series. There are three popular types of combots: the basic wedge, pneumatic lifters and the high speed spinners. The winner of the tournament gets to take home the Combots Cup pictured to the left and put their name on it until next year’s event. The Tested channel on YouTube covered the 2012 Combots Cup and had a chance to interview the founder of the organization as well as some of the veteran robot builders. There’s also some fight footage:
Here’s some bonus high speed footage of the 2012 Combots Cup Champion, Last Rites. Wheelchair motors move it around the arena while an over-volted 25 horsepower golf cart motor spins its blade up to 2500 rpm producing a tip speed of 400 mph. The guys from the Distort channel set it loose on some used furniture and filmed the devastation in high speed.
Check out this TED Talk by Raffaello D’Andrea if you need another reason to think electric vehicles are cool. D’Andrea and his team have programmed quadcopters to perform amazing feats inside a zone where they use external camera feedback to locate themselves similar to GPS. Quadcopters are agile because they are inherently unstable. There are a bare minimum number of motors and propellers to influence the four degrees of freedom: roll, pitch, yaw and acceleration. A high resolution of control is afforded by the fact that electric motors are essentially perfect digital actuators fast enough to keep up with processors. The controller supplies a current to the motor which results in a precise amount of torque output almost instantaneously. That’s what makes these quadcopter tricks possible just like digital control over pulse width modulation (blinking really fast) and color in LED’s has ushered in a new era of 3D Projection Light Shows. Watch the video to see mind blowing acrobatics like holding a reverse pendulum, triple flips, gesture control, adapting to broken propellers and teams of quadcopters tethered together with a ball catching and throwing device dubiously named the Skynet:
If the power of mechatronic control algorithms can do that with quadcopters, think of what we can do with electric cars. Instead of four propellers on a quadcopter, picture the controllers managing four electric motors driving the wheels of a car. We can now hook a processor up to simultaneously read wheel slippage, accelerations in all directions, and yaw thousands of times a second. It can then apply both positive and negative torque to each individual wheel to make the chassis performance match the driver’s input in a huge array of conditions. Give that same processor access to active aerodynamic flaps or ground effect fans and we may be entering a new era of racing technology with electric cars. This is the kind of innovation that made the different propulsion modes on the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive so mind blowing to Chris Harris when he got to drive it. The SLS E-Drive has individual drive motors for each wheel and may be the first real performance electric car to take advantage of these mechatronic control algorithms to manipulate chassis dynamics.
If you find any of this at all interesting, then you owe it to yourself to check out the DIY Drones open-source community and start tinkering!
You might know the DARPA Legged Squad Support System (LS3) as the Boston Dynamics Big Dog. The concept was to make a robotic pack mule that can carry payload for infantry on foot without the limitations of wheeled vehicles. The system was already pretty impressive back in 2010:
Lets all be honest here. Exactly zero people should be surprised by the fact that a company in Japan, home of Gundam, Macross, Evangelion and countless other giant robot anime series, has made a mech suit that you can now purchase for a mere $1.3 million dollars. It’s easy to get very excited about this upon first impression. Finally! a 13 foot tall, 4.4 ton mech suit that I can ride around in punting off all the people who drive slow in the passing lane! Biped legs would make for a more graceful punting form, but I’m sure they’re working on that for Kuratas 2. Oh look, here’s a very cheery promotional video to go with the Kuratas. I’m not completely sure, but I think there’s an F-Bomb in the lyrics of the song, so it gets a precautionary **NSFW WARNING**
This video by Kenji Ishida hit the blogosphere yesterday. It’s his eighth iteration of a robot that transforms into a car. It has 22 servo motors which allows the robot to transform, walk and even throw punches.