Many organizations have started integrating robots for real-life actions. But using readymade robots can become an expensive affair. Also, Robot development by organizations themselves can be time-consuming.
Keeping this in mind, researchers of NYU Tandon School of Engineering and the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems have developed a low-cost, open-source quadruped robot for labs and startups of low budgets- the Solo 8 v2.
The dog resembling robot – Solo 8, can be easily modified according to any organization’s individual needs. Reduced production time and optimized costs open doors to maximum possibilities for the Solo robot applications.
“For a research group to develop such a robot themselves, it takes easily four years of work,” said Badri-Spröwitz, leader of Dynamic Locomotion Research Group.
“Additionally, you need a wide range of expertise. Our platform is the combined knowledge of several teams. Now any lab worldwide can go online, download the files and print the parts, and buy the remaining components from the catalog. And everybody can add extra features within a few extra weeks. Done – you’ve got yourself a world-class robot.”
Solo 8 – 3D Printed Robot is Accessible
The Solo robot’s parts can be 3D printed or bought in a shop. The construction files are available for free under the BSD 3-clause license, enabling researchers to make maximum use of its setup while developing their robot version. The open-source quadruped robot can behave significantly similarly to its expensive counterparts.
It is made possible by its torque-controlled motors and actuated joints. Each robotic leg can change its length and angle. The robot can jump, walk-in multiple directions, and even rotate its legs to recover its posture if overturned.
The bot controller has been designed based on the Reinforcement learning framework developed by Open Dynamic Robot Initiative. The Solo robot uses virtual springs, not mechanical springs, and this allows researchers to make the robot jump with variable frequencies through programming.
Researchers can control the spring stiffness from soft to hard, and variable stiffness is what we witness in living animals. The Solo 8 robot has used the same concept, which helps the robot motions remain unaffected in drastic environmental changes such as surface height, damping, stiffness, etc.
Most quadruped robots are heavy, which makes them hard to handle. This is another point where the Solo robot is a step ahead. Solo 8 weighs just 2.2 kilos, and the lightweight makes it easier to transport and operate the robot.
“Our robot platform is a great base to quickly prototype and build high-performance hardware,” said Righetti, a research group leader at MPI-IS.
“In return, we benefit because other researchers can contribute to the project; for example, colleagues at the LAAS-CNRS in France have developed an electronic board to help communicate with the robot over WiFi.”
It is not the first time we have seen robotic development in the quadruped robot segment. But what makes the Solo robot different is its accessibility and the scope to tweak it in limited budgets. The researchers say that this open-source quadruped robot can be modified to meet one’s unique requirements with a few thousand euros. This step makes robotics accessible to a lot more researchers than any other bot produced.
The 3D printed robot’s name “Solo 8” represents the use of eight actuated joints in the bot. An advanced version of the robot, Solo 12, has recently been developed and tested. As the name suggests, the robot works with 12 degrees of freedom, three degrees per leg.
“Because of the additional degrees of freedom, it will be a lot more versatile and will be able to display more interesting and complex behaviors,” said Badri- Spröwitz.
In conclusion, we can say that the development of the Solo 8 robot can benefit both the robotic and 3D printing communities. The open-source code of the robot welcomes possibilities for significant growth in the Solo robot itself.