Six-Legged 'Snake Monster': First of New Breed of Reconfigurable Modular Robots


'Snake Monster' is an autonomous, hexapod robot built with new modular actuators by a team at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. The series elastic actuator is a motor that has a spring in series with its output shaft. The spring helps protect the motor from high impacts but, more importantly, allows the actuator to measure and regulate the force it exerts, as well as the forces exerted on it. Howie Choset, a professor in the Robotics Institute, says the walking robot is just one example of the robots that eventually can be built using this modular system. His team already is working on modules such as force-sensing feet, wheels, and tank-like treads that will enable the assembly of totally different robots. Snake Monster was developed in only six months. DARPA sponsored the project through its Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program, which focuses on ways to design and build robots more rapidly and enhance their ability to manipulate objects and move in natural environments. Snake Monster, as well as some of Choset's other robots, will be demonstrated at the finals of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, June 5-6 in Pomona, CA.