Simple robots known as crawlers have become very important in specialized tasks that require moving extremely heavy objects. Robots that are similar to crawlers even are used in planetary exploration. The downside to crawlers has always been a lack of fluid mobility, such as sideways motion. This means that since the crawlers are limited in their directional field it can take quite a while to complete tasks with them. Luckily researchers at Japan’s Osaka University have finally created an innovative new crawler that uses a technology called Omni-Ball to add substantially improved mobility.
So what exactly is the Omini-Ball all about? This omni-directional wheel allows the prototype battery-powered remote-controlled Omni-Crawler to travel in any direction desired and allows increased efficiency when using a crawler. Although the Omni-Crawler isn’t the first concept for a multi-directional robotic crawler, it still is very unique. Unlike similar concepts, this crawler utilizes two cylindrical crawlers which borrow properties from the team’s two-piece ball-shaped wheels. The Omni-Balls consist of two matching wheels connected to one another on a short axle. This allows rotation independently or in unison.
According to its developers, there is a lot of potential for this crawler beyond conventional use. The Omini-Crawler is considered a starting point for a variety of related projects including a crawler that can combine three crawler wheels for planetary exploration. There are even prototypes of a robot hand with Omni-ball crawlers attached to the fingertips and a gripper that can easily grab soft objects without damaging them. The developers even dream of a world where these omini-ball based devices could even be used for holding organs in surgery and other surgical related purposes.
The Omni-Crawler and the technology behind it certainly look to point to a future ruled by robots. This may be an exaggeration, but nonetheless is clear that robotic technology is quickly advancing and becoming more commonplace in daily life.