A collaborative team at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Tübingen and Stuttgart, Germany, have developed a low-cost, easy-to-build quadruped robot called Solo 8 for use in small labs, teaching institutions, and startups.
Solo 8 is designed to be modified and upgraded to help make robot research and pedagogy more accessible to different institutions working with limited budgets. Though the robot is a low cost, its torque-controlled motors and actuated joint allows it to act like its more expensive brethren. For instance, Solo 8 can jump, walk-in various directions, and recover its orientation, posture, and stability after being overturned.
To keep costs low, all the components can either be bought in a shop or 3D printed. The construction files are available online for free under the BSD 3-clause license. The robot is also relatively light. Solo 8 weighs a little over 2 kilograms; most quadruped robots are heavier and more difficult to handle in a research environment. Solo 8’s low weight makes it easier to be handled and transported.
Solo 8 opens up many research possibilities including the exploration of animal-based limb movements and movements over different surfaces, dynamic locomotion including parkour-style movement, which few robots can do, manipulation of the environment like opening doors, reinforcement learning for complex and dynamic behaviors, and integration of robots with advanced communications technology.
“Now, any lab worldwide can go online, download the files and print the parts, and buy the remaining components from the catalog,” explains research leader Alexander Badri-Spröwitz. “And everybody can add extra features, within a few extra weeks. Done — you've got yourself a world-class robot."
Many universities have already approached the team about using robots as a research platform. And one team in France has already developed an electronic board to communicate with Solo 8 via WiFi. Solo 8’s estimated price is a few thousand Euros; similar robots cost upwards of $50,000. Meanwhile, the team has already built a new version of the robot that’s currently being tested.