Fleets of Hamster Ball Robots – Coming Soon to a Farm Near You

A hamster exercise balls has proved the inspiration for a team of researchers at The Robotics and Cybernetic Research group at the University of Madrid.

The team, whose area of interest is developing robots which are able to navigate rough and uneven terrain, realised that in such landscapes a conventional robot – with legs, wheels or tracks, would frequently get stuck when coming up against ruts, shifting surfaces (such as sand dunes) or debris.

The four strong team realised that using a sphere, very much like a hamster’s exercise ball, which houses the motor and robotics, would prove far more stable and better at navigating this terrain.

Inside the Rosphere robot a weight and control systems hang from a spindle. As the weight swings on the spindle this propels the Rosphere backwards or forwards, with a drive wheel to help steer the sphere.

The trick used by hamsters to get an exercise ball rolling is helping to power a spherical robot.

In time the Rosphere robots will be fitted with camera and monitoring sensors. An early use of the robots, with research funding having come from the European Union, is to use the robots to help farmers detect changes to crop conditions.
The Rosphere robots, with sensors to detect temperature, soil moisture levels and so on, could be used on farms to wander up and down crop fields checking for when crops need watering and for instance assisting agronomists in making decisions when to provide nutrients to crops.

James Barnes,

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