Japanese roboticist Masaaki Kumagai has recently wrapped up a neat project: A robot that can balance on a ball, carry cinderblocks, water, and basketballs, and even coordinate with other ‘bots to carry things around.
While the induction of oohing and aahing is undoubtedly one of the robot’s — known as BallIP’s — functions, it has some exciting potential applications:
It can work as a mobile tray to transport cocktails[sic] objects and it can also serve as an omnidirectional supporting platform to help people carry heavy objects.
Such a ball-balancing design is like an inverted pendulum, and thus naturally unstable, but it offers advantages: it has a small footprint and can move in any direction without changing its orientation.
In other words, whereas a two-wheel self-balancing robot has to turn before it can drive in a different direction, a ball-riding robot can promptly drive in any direction. Try that, Segway!
Check out this video of the robot performing some of its tricks:
(via IEEE Spectrum. Thanks, Erico)
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