Jet Propulsion Labs is building RoboSimian, a simian-inspired, limbed robot that will use deliberate and stable operations to complete challenging tasks under supervised teleoperation. The team will employ design methods, system elements and software algorithms that have already been successfully demonstrated in JPL's existing robots. RoboSimian will use its four general-purpose limbs and hands, capable of both mobility and manipulation, to achieve passively stable stances, create multi-point anchored connections to supports such as ladders, railings and stair treads, and brace itself during forceful manipulation operations.
Because the physical robot is being developed in parallel with the software to run it, the hardware and software teams have been largely running in parallel as well. In order to give the software team something to work with, we have used two different approaches. The first is to give the software team a "mule" of as much of the robot as possible at any one time. Starting with just the bare compute element brain, the mules have been successively updated to the full Trials configuration. In addition, because the robot is intended to be a quasi-statically stable system, the operator interface software itself could be used to simulate operations and the function of the robot's onboard software.
Developing a Robot for DRC:
Three principles that have guided the development of RoboSimian are modularity, dexterity, and fieldability. The robot has 28 identical actuators in four identical limbs which simplifies design, fabrication, and maintenance. The 28 degrees-of-freedom for mobility and manipulation provide a highly dexterous robotic platform. The robot folds into a relatively small volume and can run on batteries to simplify transportation nd operation. The operator console is a standard computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse which simplifies set-up of the operator control station. Another strategy has been to leverage past expertise. The actuator design evolves from designs for prior robots and the software is evolved from the system developed for the DARPA ARM-S program. The software has utilized a simulator to enable parallel development while the robot was being assembled.
Involvement in Prior DARPA Challenges:
The team boasts alumni from all three Grand Challenges (2004, 2005, 2007), the LittleDog program, and the Autonomous Robotic Manipulator program (both Software and Hardware tracks).