Doctoral students from the Department of Control Engineering built a robot banking on two legs.

Concept taken from the ETH University of Zurich, but completely original design using commonly available technologies and components-the new experimental robot called SK8O ('Skate-o') is created on the premises of the Department of Control Engineering, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, and can balance on two legs with wheels. It will be used to teach dynamic driving, in the final he should be able to jump over obstacles or jump up the stairs while driving. Until recently, the dynamic movement of the robot conceived in this way belonged more to the science fiction realm.

The SK8O balance robot was completely designed and built by doctoral students Martin Gurtner and Krištof Pučejdl from the Department of Control Engineering. They were inspired by Boston Dynamics robots and especially by the Ascento project, which was presented in 2019 by a team from the ETH University of Zurich. In addition to the concept itself (a body with two legs on wheels), the Czech robot has a completely original technological solution. Despite the complexity of the project, its development and construction lasted only 3 months from September to December 2020.

Can be build by experienced handyman

The SK8O robot impresses with its sophisticated design in blue, yet most of the mechanical components are printed on a commonly available 3D printer. One of the main advantages of the robot is the openness of the hardware solution. All components can be purchased in e-shops for electrical engineers or printed on a model 3D printer. Therefore, if an experienced do-it-yourself guy follows the instructions, he or she will be able to assemble the robot. The costs of hardware, including material for a 3D printer and the production of printed circuit boards, amounted to approximately CZK 50,000.

Dynamic movement: an unexplored topic for research

To ensure autonomous movement, it is sufficient to equip the robot with cameras, GPS navigation, or lidar and other sensors. This is a well-known and relatively simple task from the point of view of robotics. However, the dynamic movement is the real problem. At present, the robot can balance on differently stretched legs, drive through rugged space with obstacles or jump on the spot. “The Swiss Ascento can jump over obstacles while driving or jump on stairs, which is many times more difficult,” says Krištof Pučejdl. “Our robot is hardware-equipped for these tasks, but the necessary control software and algorithms will be the topic of further work by students of our Cybernetics and Robotics program. Artificial intelligence and numerical optimization will also be the issue.” Many aspects of dynamic movement have not yet been explored at all, and Czech doctoral students are entering a completely unexplored field.

Jump up the stairs… and what's next?

The SK8O balance robot will therefore face further months of software development, at the end of which it should be able to handle advanced dynamic functions, such as jumping up the stairs. Due to the low production costs, the team is going to produce several copies, which will be used for university teaching and experiments. Will the unique design of the legs with wheels, which were not invented even by nature during millions of years of development, find a practical application in the end? “If you equip it with the necessary accessories, it could be used to deliver smaller consignments, for security checks in buildings, as a robotic presenter at conferences or, for example, as a waiter or assistant in the office. Let us be surprised,” smiles Martin Gurtner, co-author of the robot from the Department of Control Engineering, FEE CTU. The doctoral students now want to invite talented students to participate with them in the further development of this robot and related experiments.

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