Engineering Newswire 171: Disney Develops A Wall-Climbing Robot

This Engineering Newswire looks at taking a ride on the latest hoverboard, climbing walls with a versatile robot and sensing objects underwater with sonar gloves.

$20K Hoverboard Can Fly for Six Minutes

Another company is claiming to have invented a working hoverboard, and unlike the Lexus or Hendo hoverboards, which are powered by magnets, this new version can hover over any surface.

Aerospace company Arca Space is taking orders for its ArcaBoard, a device which is said to hover up to a foot in the air. To achieve this feat, 36 high-powered electric ducted fans deliver over 270 horsepower and 430 pounds of thrust.

According to the company’s website, the ArcaBoard can be controlled using your phone for navigation; however, for a more intense experience, the user can turn off the stabilization system and steer the device with his or her own body.

Unfortunately, the batteries only last a maximum of six minutes on the lightweight version and just three minutes on the version designed for heavier users. And it’s not quite ready for commuting yet, considering its top speed is about 12.5 mph, with a range of just over a mile.

Despite these limitations, the ArcaBoard is designed to work over most surfaces, including rocky terrain and water. However, its price tag of almost $20,000 might be out of reach for the average Joe. 

Disney Wall-Climbing Robot

Disney and ETH Zurich have developed a new four-wheeled robot called VertiGo, which can transition from rolling on the ground to climbing walls.

So how exactly is this accomplished?

The robot has two steerable propellers that provide thrust onto the wall and keep it from falling. They work similar to spoilers on cars, which create downward forces to keep the vehicle pressed to the road.

One pair of wheels is steerable, and each propeller has two degrees of freedom for adjusting the direction of thrust.

This ability to transition from the ground to a wall and back again allows the robot to travel through urban and indoor environments.

Most importantly, the design team wanted to maximize the ratio between thrust output and vehicle weight

To do this, they used a central carbon fiber baseplate, while 3D printed parts and carbon rods were used for more complex 3D structures.

In addition, eight individually controlled actuators and an onboard computer enable a human operator to control the vehicle similarly to common RC-cars.

There is no word yet on what exactly the technology will be used for, but I foresee some pretty high-tech robotic toys coming from Disney in the near future. 

Sonar Gloves Let Wearer Feel Distant Objects

A group of Ph.D. candidates from Japan’s Tsukuba University have created a sonar glove that lets wearers feel what’s underwater without actually touching anything.

Called the IrukaTact, the glove’s designers hope the technology will help first responders find the exact locations of victims during emergency situations such as flooding.

The glove is equipped with a MaxBotix MB7066 sonar sensor to detect objects underwater.

Once an object is located, an Arduino Pro Mini microcontroller board sends signals to three silicone thimbles in the index, middle and ring fingers.

Small motors in each thimble then pump surrounding water onto the fingers to generate haptic feedback.

When the glove closes in on an object, the pressure from the water jets intensifies.

Currently, the sonar glove can only detect objects up to two feet away, but researchers hope that expanding its capabilities will one day allow it to search in much deeper waters.

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