Predicting future needs and the technology needed to achieve those needs




HECTOR - The Biomechatronics research group of Bielefeld University, led by Prof. Dr. Axel Schneider, developed this six-legged walking robot using a stick insect as a model. For the design, the insect's measurements were increased by a factor of about 20. The total length of the robot is roughly 90 cm and weighs 12kg. They say it's a giant stick insect, but it looks more like an ant or a beetle. The project's goal was to better understand the gait of insects and make the underlying coordination principles usable for technical systems. The research team also wanted to investigate fundamental concepts for controlling elastically actuated robotic systems. Now this is something we are also looking at.

Hector's extremely light exoskeleton consists of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). All drive parts and the connections between the leg segments were designed and fabricated in-house in Bielefeld. The legs are made of aluminum alloy, as are ours. The unique features of this robot are the multitude of sensors with which it is equipped and its biologically inspired, decentralized control principle. With its specially designed drives and sensors, it can adapt to the ground conditions while walking - albeit rather slowly. Hector is currently capable of negotiating slightly uneven terrain and overcomes smaller obstacles, such as steps, without difficulty. Our objective is to cope with seriously uneven ground.

As you can see from the picture above, each leg of the walking robot has three joints, so that the movements of 18 joints have to be controlled simultaneously. Each joint is equipped with a brushless Maxon EC 45 (flat) motor. These 50 watt drives are custom units without a lateral connection board. The 18 leg joints are controlled using biologically inspired algorithms, much the same as Dino the DinoBot. Eighteen motors x 50w = 900w or 1.2hp. That's a lot of power in a lightweight robot for not a lot of speed. Granted that all of the motors are not operating all of the time. We assume that Hector can travel faster than seen in the videos.



Inspired by insects, Hector (HExapod Cognitive au Tonomously Operating Robot) has elastic joints and an extremely lightweight exoskeleton. For the six legs, maxon DC motors provide the robot with a flexible gait.


The University admit that Hector's intelligence is still vastly inferior to that of biological insects - of course. However, it already has to process complex sensor data for the leg coordination. Hector is able to walk independently and responds to obstacles, so thinks for itself as to locomotion. 


Nobody can deny that insects are intelligent in a very basic way. Hector also displays simple intelligent behavior. One of many important properties of intelligent behavior is, for example, the ability to plan ahead. Initial versions of a more advanced robot control are currently being tested on the system, with the purpose of giving the robot simple planning capabilities – making it more intelligent, so to speak. During a program lasting until 2017, the team plan to equip the walking robot with additional abilities over the course of a collaborative project hosted by the Bielefeld-based Center of Excellence for Cognitive Interaction Technology.




STOMPY - Appears to be a larger version of the Mantis, with similar characteristics - such as a slow walking speed - but still great fun to watch in operation.



The Mantis and Matt Denton


THE MANTIS - Compare Stompy above with Matt Denton's giant hexapod. Stompy may be a little bigger and has two seats, otherwise, the concept is similar. Matt Denton, from Hampshire, estimates his "very expensive toy" has cost him hundreds of thousands of pounds.

In April 2013 Matt told the BBC that a mining company and a marine research organisation are now interested in his design and he hopes it might be used at science fairs. During its development the machine had one outing, at a music festival, where Mr Denton says it was well received. "It's an entertainment vehicle," he said in 2013. "But I hope it will inspire people."

The project was only initially intended to take 12 months, Mr Denton, who usually specialises in small-scale animatronics for the film industry, said. "After 18 months we tried the model out. We had to completely strip out and rebuild the legs. They were too heavy and complicated.
Image caption Animatronics expert Matt Denton says his machine's legs are inefficient. "I'm a software and electronics engineer so this was out of my area - I had to learn fast."

The robot, driver-operated by joysticks within a cockpit, can only travel at 1.5km/h (1mph) and manage a distance of 5km on a 20-litre (4.5-gallon) tank of diesel. "It's not about miles to the gallon, it's about gallons to the mile," he said. "It wasn't built to be efficient and fast. It was built to look cool and insect-like and fun."

Mr Denton said he was inspired by science fiction to create the "walking" machine. "But legs are very inefficient - the wheel was invented for a reason."





LEG JOINTS - Each leg of the robot has three motorised joints. The movements of all 18 joints have to be controlled simultaneously. The motor and gearbox joints are equipped with a 50w brushless Maxon EC 45 motor. These assemblies are custom designed units.


The drive electronics and their controls are embedded in the drives. To make the drives elastic, special elastomer couplings, custom-designed for this purpose, were integrated directly into the drives. The research team needed a motor to deliver high torque while being small and lightweight. “ The motors also had to be as short as possible, because the resulting length of the overall drive limits the leg's range of motion, among other things. Research team member Jan Paskarbeit, who designed and built Hector is quoted as saying: "This is why we chose the EC 45 flat 50 W.”




Bielefeld University (German: Universität Bielefeld) is a university in Bielefeld, Germany. Founded in 1969, it is one of the country's newer universities, and considers itself a "reform" university, following a different style of organization and teaching than the established universities. In particular, the university aims to "re-establish the unity between research and teaching", and so all its faculty teach courses in their area of research. The university also stresses a focus on interdisciplinary research, helped by the architecture, which encloses all faculties in one great structure. It is among the first of the German universities to switch some faculties (e.g. biology) to Bachelor/Master-degrees as part of the Bologna process.

Bielefeld University has started an extensive multi-phase modernisation project, which upon completion in 2025 would result in completely new university buildings to replace the 40-year-old main building. A total investment of more than 1 billion euros has been planned for this undertaking.





Universitätsstraße 25, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany

Phone: +49 521 10600
















Dino the DinoBot


DINO - Is a DinoBot robot based on the giant prehistoric ants still living today in Australia, only smaller than some of their predecessors.



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