Army Researchers Developing Self-righting for Robots


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When Kessens returned home, he looked into the scientific literature on what has been already done with self-righting robots.

"I found several solutions, each for a specific robot," he said. "But the Army has several types of systems, and new systems will come out. I wanted to be able to develop a general framework for creating a self-righting solution for any robot. That includes tracked robots, legged robots, flying robots, and also very small robots that don't have a lot of memory or processing power. My work has been aimed at developing a framework that can be applied to any robot. You give me a robot, and I give you a self-righting solution for the robot, assuming it is physically possible."

Kessens said that many times when a robot flips over in an operational environment, the user - the Soldier - can't see the robot, so he has no way of knowing what way the robot is actually sitting on the ground.

"It can be really disorienting when the robot flips over and the camera is staring straight at the sky or the ground, and the operator might not have a good idea of how the robot is configured, which could make it challenging to make the robot return to its upright state," Kessens said.

So Kessens has developed software that, when coupled with information about how a specific robot is designed, generates a set of instructions the robot can use to flip itself back upright.

The software Kessens has designed does not run on the robot. Rather, the software runs on a separate computer, and develops an array of solutions the robot can use to flip itself upright, based on what orientation it might find itself in. Those solutions are then loaded into the robot, and it takes that set of instructions with it wherever it goes.

"One of the nice things about the framework I've been developing is that it takes pre-processed plans and distills them down to something that doesn't take much memory or processing power," he said. "It runs before the robot ever hits the field."

The smallest robots might not have on board the processing power to calculate their own self-righting solutions on the fly. But with Kessens' idea, even small robots with limited memory and processing power could carry onboard with them a set of already-developed self-righting solutions to get themselves back in the game.

When a robot flips over, then it can assess its orientation, reference the set of instructions it has for that particular situation, and then use its own flippers, wheels or arms to turn itself upright again and get on with its mission.

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