Here at Aalborg University, one of our prime concerns is to investigate state of the art robotic technology and make it available to the industry and the general public. This project is a great example of exactly that.
Mobile robots are slowly becoming a part of our daily lives; robot vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers are sold by the millions worldwide. However, robots moving around and together with people is an area that is only just maturing. In order to serve people, our robots need to be able to, not only, recognize the human beings around it, but also understand the social rules of interaction that they need to respect. This means that the robots must be equipped with sophisticated sensors to sense and understand their surroundings, and they will run state of the art algorithms to make sense of all the data, analyze the environment that it is working in, and understand the social setting that it needs to navigate. It is our task, at Aalborg University, to assemble a robot platform that enables this advanced social navigation and embed all the needed algorithms in it.
Our robot prototype will feature a novel ball-balancing type of locomotion. This means that the robot’s only point of contact with the ground is a single ball the size of a regular football. The rest of the robot then stands tall on top of the ball. This approach has several advantages: First, it enables the robot to move both forwards and sideways, which is important in human-robot interactions. Second, it allows the robot to turn on the spot and generally have a small footprint compared to its height. And finally, it enables the robot to move in fluent organic motions. A feature that lets it merge in with people in the human-dominated environments. One challenge regarding the ball-balancing locomotion is naturally that robot constantly needs to keep its balance. This is enabled by advanced balancing algorithms that we are developing in our labs at Aalborg University.
We are very excited about this project, because the partners represent such a variety of competencies. This means that we will not only produce an interesting robot platform, but it will also be tested in a real scenario together with all the components developed by our project partners. This focus on the complete solution, from all the partners boosts the energy and eagerness to deliver a high-quality product.