Brigham Young University engineers are working with the Pneubotics project to prepare a robotic mechanism for the space industry. In contrast to standard models, the inflatable robot under development has at least an unusual appearance. He was named King Louie. This name was given to the robot by one of the characters from the cartoon "The Jungle Book" of the 60s.
Instead of a metal body, the controlled robot received inflatable chambers, the principle of which is similar to the action of antagonistic muscles. Precise pressure control allows the air parts of the structure to contract and expand, performing various manipulations of the arms and legs.
Such constructions have quite significant competitive advantages. First, they are made from fabric and rubber, which makes them cheaper to manufacture. They are also easy to repair. Secondly, lightness when compared to metal robots. In addition, the dimensions of the air robot can be reduced by deflating, which makes them more compact.
Safety can also be considered a positive side of King Louie, since there are no metal elements in its device. The softness of the robot is deceiving. Despite its "airiness", the mechanism, like King Louis, is quite strong and develops a good speed thanks to its hydraulics.
At the same time, the inflatable robot needs to be improved on a number of functions. It does not have sensors that control the position of the components of the mechanism, which are found in rigid counterparts. Therefore, when controlling King Louis, it is important to understand the position of his limbs and joints at the moment.
Today, the main disadvantage of such mechanisms is the angularity and complexity of control. The trajectories of movement of various parts during twisting and bending of the robot limbs are difficult to simulate. Each time the air is inflated and deflated, the internal structure, including the joints, changes.
However, the developers of the project came up with a method of how to manage and train King Louie, so that it will execute the appropriate commands and take into account the change in its dimensions when inflating. To do this, the robotics have built motion tracking sensors into the robot's arms to record angles while moving.
The financial side of the King Louie project is handled by NASA, which is interested in robots in space of this type to help further the exploration of interstellar space. For this, the mechanism has lightness, low weight, efficiency, safety and durability. Now King Louis is not completely ready for practical work, the structure is not yet sufficiently autonomous, he also needs to learn how to manage his mass. In the future, such inflatable structures can become a full-fledged alternative to rigid robots and other robotic structures on space stations.
The Topic of Article: An inflatable robot will come to the aid of the astronauts.