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Students with the Stanford University Robotics Club's Extreme Mobility Team have released and open-sourced the plans, parts list, and software for a working, reproducible robo-dog they've named Stanford Doggo.
Stanford Doggo Freely Available to Reproduce
Robotics isn't cheap by any means, and no one knows this better than the students of the Extreme Mobility Team of Standford University's Robotics Club (SEMT). The materials used by university robotics clubs can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, making it that much harder for many high schools and less well-funded colleges and universities to invest heavily in this important field of research.
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Rather than keep the high-quality robotics to their advantage, they've instead worked to create an open-source robo-dog and put all the instructions, parts list, and software code online for anyone to use.
“We had seen these other quadruped robots used in research, but they weren’t something that you could bring into your own lab and use for your own projects,” said Nathan Kau, a mechanical engineering major and lead for SEMT. “We wanted Stanford Doggo to be this open source robot that you could build yourself on a relatively small budget.”
Relative is the operative word here, as the parts will still be a significant investment of as much as $3,000, but that is certainly within the operating budgets for many more schools and hobbyists than is currently the case.
So far, the dog can walk and trot, hop and jump, dance, and do a backflip. About the size of a beagle, the SEMT is hoping to finish a much larger robo-dog that they've called the Standford Woofer, which is about twice the size and is capable of carrying about 6 kgs.
Building a Robot from the Ground Up
To create a robot that was entirely reproducible, SEMT had to first produce the robot themselves, including designing the parts, sourcing the materials, and then testing them physically as they had no way to simulate the new parts. As time went on, though, Stanford Doggo began to come together.
“It’s been about two years since we first had the idea to make a quadruped," said Natalie Ferrante, a mechanical engineering student, and SEMT member. "We’ve definitely made several prototypes before we actually started working on this iteration of the dog. It was very exciting the first time we got him to walk.”
Patrick Slade, an aeronautics and astronautics graduate student and mentor for SEMT, hopes Stanford Doggo can be a platform that others build on, rather than just an end in itself. “We’re hoping to provide a baseline system that anyone could build,” he said. “Say, for example, you wanted to work on search and rescue; you could outfit it with sensors and write code on top of ours that would let it climb rock piles or excavate through caves. Or maybe it’s picking up stuff with an arm or carrying a package.”
The team plans to continue work on their robots once the return from the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Montreal, Canada this week, where they will be showing off their work.