Robots today are designed for either form or function. Functional robots put your car together and grab products from Amazon shelves, and nobody cares how they look. Robots designed for form aren’t much more than electro-mechanical pets — toys really. But that doesn’t mean a robot can’t be both, and Carnegie Mellon University’s Robomechanics Lab has created just such a robot that you can build yourself for about $200.
MiniRHex was designed as a smaller, more affordable version of the RHex robot. RHex has been around for almost two decades now, and a version called X-RHex Lite is utilized for research by the Robomechanics Lab. It uses unique hybrid wheel-legs (called “whegs”) that combine the efficiency of wheels with the rough terrain capability of legs. Unfortunately, X-RHex Lite is quite expensive — reportedly costing around $20,000. So, they can came up with a far more affordable version, and you can build it yourself!
MiniRHex is essentially a miniature version of the X-RHex Lite, and has the same special legs that let it scurry over uneven terrain that a wheeled rover simply couldn’t handle. Be sure to watch the video above, which may just be the best robot demonstration we’ve ever seen. Most importantly, they’ve made the files available so you can build it yourself. If you’ve got a 3D printer and a laser cutter, you can build one at home for about $200. With your own MiniRHex, you can start experimenting with interesting robot gait dynamics, or just have a cute little bot that will scamper over everything in its path.