Friday, October 14, 2005

Re-inventing the Wheel

Robo-Mule Gets Wheel, Leg Blend

The Future Force Warrior program's Robotic Mule will be able to go wherever the infantry go, carrying supplies and ammunition and giving them somewhere to plug in their rechargers.

One approach to the Mule is to build a four-legged robot very much like the biological version -- or some sort of wheeled equivalent. But there is another way, and this is where Danny Hillis of Creative Minds comes in. Hillis is best known for developing the parallel processing that underlies most modern supercomputers, but has been active in many different fields. His idea is to develop something that is part wheel, part leg, combining the strengths of both. It's not a matter of reinventing the wheel so much as repackaging it.

"Nature doesn't generally use wheels," Hillis explains, "because although they are good for smooth surfaces, there are few smooth surfaces in nature. In fact we spent a great deal of effort building flat surfaces for wheels to roll on. It would be better to have a wheel which could go on any surface."

The new alternative would be as simple and cheap as a wheel but with the all-terrain capability of legs. Hillis is very cagey about the configuration - evidently there have been several different versions – and the picture shows one prototype. The ultimate design may be completely different.

Defense Tech: Robo-Mule Gets Wheel, Leg Blend


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home