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Professor's pet: agile hopping robot


Professor Thomas Bewley and his fellow inventors in the Coordinated Robotics Lab are teaching iHop, a hopping, sheltie-sized three-wheeled rover, to perform increasingly amazing tricks. iHop maneuvers on wheels like other robots, but it can also balance on a toe, jump, and twist in mid-air like a canine agility course champion. Unique combinations of motions and situational awareness are made possible by a patented spring-loaded hopping mechanism, gyroscopic wheels and sophisticated software.

"Most people are captivated by iHop's playful demeanor," says Bewley. "However, its mechanical simplicity, efficiency, and maneuverability make iHop an appealing candidate for search-and-rescue, defense, and homeland security applications."

Bewley used funding from the UCSD-Los Alamos National Laboratory Engineering Institute to initially develop iHop. That funding was followed in May 2007 by a commercialization grant awarded by the Jacobs School 's William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement.

iHop's MEMS gyroscopes and accelerometers feed sophisticated on-board altitude estimation and stabilization algorithms in iHop's carefully designed brain. The new grant will be used to develop the mechanical components and control algorithms that will enable iHop to efficiently perform even more pet-like tricks, such as hopping up and down stairs.

No word yet on whether the robot will bark.

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