Members of Stanford University’s Student Robotics Extreme Mobility team aren’t being stingy with their newest project. They’re making the plans available for free download to anyone who wants to build their own version of the robotic quadruped they call Stanford Doggo.
The Extreme Mobility Team focuses on building robots that walk on legs. Conquering the balance, gait, and flexibility that God gave to His legged creatures hasn’t been easy for human designers. (See Recreating Nature Is Harder Than It Looks.) But even though it’s not yet perfected the mobility of a living quadruped, the group has made big leaps with Doggo.
Speaking of leaps, Doggo can not only walk. It can jump and even do flips. It got to perform its tricks in May at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Montreal, Canada.
Doggo’s legs don’t look like those of a real dog—or like those seen on other four-legged robot predecessors. Its designers used a triangular bracket with several jointed pieces instead of a more typical single-point knee-like connection. The resulting leg looks odd to those who are accustomed to nature’s designs. But it’s more conducive to jumping than other models. In fact, Doggo holds the record currently for highest-jumping robotic quadruped. It’s not so good at turning around on the ground though. Doggo’s limbs just don’t flex and rotate that way. It must shuffle in place to turn gradually. But with more mechanical development, the design team hopes to conquer that limitation.
Neither the student team nor Stanford are being proprietary about the design. They prefer to make it public so that others might build on what they’ve done and move robotics forward even more.
Team member Aaron Schultz told the university newspaper, the Stanford Daily, “There really weren’t many projects where people have published what they’ve done and how you can build your own. So that’s why we decided we were going to build our own and then make it available, so that other people in the future would be able to have something to go off of.”
Anyone can access the open-source plans at the team’s project page. Building Doggo will cost around $3,000. That’s comparatively low compared to other robotic creations. Some parts will have to be manufactured according to the plans, but everything assembles with only hand-held tools like screwdrivers and drills.
Stanford Doggo will be joined this summer by Stanford Woofer—a larger quadruped robot that will jump higher and rotate more smoothly. It will have more complex shoulder joints to allow for sophisticated mobility. There is no word yet on whether Stanford Woofer’s design plans will also be open-sourced to the public.