Open Hardware Micro-Robot Swarm Project

Open Hardware Micro-Robot Swarm

I'm a huge fan of so-called micro robots -- those with cm length scales, thus ? m3.  I've posted about numerous micro robots before, including the amazing Alice micro robot swarms from EPFL, and I am a long-time micro and nano autonomous sumo robot advocate (see RoboGames).  Perhaps that is why I'm so excited about the SwarmRobot.org open hardware micro-robot swarm, developed by the University of Stuttgart and the University of Karlsruhe.  All of the hardware and software is open (in the GPL sense), including parts lists, circuit board and chassis designs, and software.  With a stated goal to produce sub-€100 robots, I'd really like to see this take off.  Combined with a wireless power surface, a micro-robot in perpetual motion would make a great desk ornament!

I'm not sure how many robots are in the SwarmRobot.org swarm, though they claim it is "currently the largest artificial swarm in the world."  

Jasmine III Micro Robot Swarm

 

The latest robot variant from this project is called Jasmine III and can be seen in the photos below.

Jasmine III Micro Robot  Jasmine III Micro Robot

It appears the Jasmine III has abandoned the MegaBity main board used by the Jasmine II.  The new main board appears to have integrated IR communication and IR range sensing (left) along with an Atmega microcontroller for computation (middle).  In the tiled PCB (right), the mainboards are shown along with the motor controller boards.

Jasmine III Micro Robot Mainboard Top  Jasmine III Micro Robot Mainboard Bottom  Jasmine III Micro Robot PCBs Tiled

The chassis is a special metal cutout that gets bent to shape.  It appears that fuse holders are used as motor mounts (a classic technique I used back in my BEAM robotics days).  The motors are Solarbotics GM15 planetary gear pager motors.

Jasmine III Micro Robot Chassis With Motors  Jasmine III Micro Robot Chassis With Motors

Those  micro planetary gearheads atop pager motors are awesome!  I personally own a number of them, sitting around waiting for the right project (more accurately, waiting for me to have time to start a project that would use them).  For size comparison, check out these images from Solarbotics.  The SwarmRobot.org project webpage has a useful tutorial showing how to replace the belt output shaft with a geared output shaft here.

Planetary Gear Pager Motor (Micro Motor)  Planetary Gear Pager Motor (Micro Motor)

Of course, this swarm runs on batteries -- much like the Alice robots.   The designers made special hooks that can connect to a power bus, as shown below.

 

Jasmine III Micro Robot Power Recharging Bus

 

I'm still not a fan of the whole "bulk recharge" idea for micro robots.  Then again, having developed wireless powered robots for this exact swarm application, I'm most definitely biased.   Undeniably, a perpetually active, wirelessly powered swarm of robots would make an interesting art piece -- I'd certainly appreciate one sitting on my desk.

Incidentally, I'd really like to find some videos of these swarm(s) in action.  If you come across some, please drop us a line either on the Hizook contact form or in the comments below.

 

Comments

Here's a link to some videos of the Jasmine robots (a version of the Swarmrobot).

Jan, thanks for the pointer.  I also found a video on YouTube with a few more robots swarming.

 


 

—Travis Deyle
sites are offline... :-(
—Anonymous

This is a very good find, I am currently trying to develop a "micro robot" (I prefer to call it miniature as it is not the micro scale) but I find the hardest difficulty is finding places where items can be purchased specifically for this. I either have to get parts made up or scrounge what I can from the likes of RC cars which takes a lot of time to track down.

 

It would be good to actually know some suppliers that see components that would be ideal for this kind of task? There is also the possiblity of a shop focussing on this market to make a killing if they make the right contacts

—Will C

Ffs google owns YouTube and site is blocking just the view of the video due to location.

—Anonymous

@Anon, you're right.  It says "EMI has blocked this video in your country on copyright grounds."  How absurdly petty on EMI's part.

—Travis Deyle

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