VelociRoACH Gets New Shell for Robot-on-Robot Smashing
Repeated headbutting helps little legged robots flip each other over
UC Berkeley’s VelociRoACH robots are something like a decade old—the first one, DASH, was presented at IROS 2009, back when IROS was small enough to fit into a Hyatt in St. Louis, Mo. The upgraded VelociRoACH showed up next year, and we’re still seeing it being used for innovative new research. The great thing about these little robots is that they’re cheap, easy to build (mostly cardboard), and even easier to modify, so they’ve evolved rapidly over the years with things like wings and winches and drone launchers.
A few years ago, the addition of a shell (which actual roaches have) plus a tail (which actual roaches thankfully do not have) allowed VelociRoACH to flip itself over if it ended up upside down. This worked really well, but it did add a little bit of complication and expense to the VelociRoACH design. Not complication or expense that you’d care about if you were just making one robot, or 10 robots, or even maybe a 100 robots, but the whole point of making super cheap little mobile robots like VelociRoACH is that you want to be able to churn out thousands of them, and then deploy them in ginormous swarms to (say) find people in rubble after an earthquake.
The latest version of VelociRoACH leverages the swarm idea to solve the flipped-over robot problem using nothing more than a slightly-redesigned shell. Instead of using a cockroach-like rounded robot, a square-fronted shell allows one robot to simply smash itself headfirst into another robot until it flips it over.