Meka Robotics is renowned for their humanoid robot, the M1 mobile manipulator with omnidirectional wheeled base. However, Meka also has a number of joint collaborations with research labs that have resulted in some cool, new robotic technologies. First up, Meka teamed up with Luis Sentis' Human Centered Robotics Lab at UT Austin to design and build a new legged biped, named Hume, for rough-terrain locomotion. As you can see in the video below, Meka and Luis designed a high-speed, high-strength pair of robot legs that will (hopefully) be paired with a set of Meka's famous series-elastic arms (and thus give BDI's PetMan some healthy competition!). Second, Meka teamed up with Mark Cutkosky from Stanford's Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab to build upon Standord's tactile sensor technology. They worked with Charlie Kemp's Healthcare Robotics Lab (at Georgia Tech) to develop the sensor into a tactile-sensing skin for Cody that is now being used to explore cutting-edge robot behaviors for tactile manipulation. Check out the videos of the sensor below, and be on the lookout for cool "manipulation in clutter" videos from Charlie's lab in the coming weeks. So... while Meka develops some great products, they can also work with you to make your robot concepts into beautifully-designed robot realities.
A video is worth a thousand (million?) words:
Luis and the folks from Meka tell me that this robot is designed to study planar rough-terrain locomotion with very little perception, and that it is intended to have high-speed (a fast running gait) and high-strength (ability to climb over the rough terrain, eg. deep knee bends to get out of sticky situations). Apparently this is accomplished using compliant, force-controlled series-elastic actuators in the legs. The actuators are designed with moderate gear ratios and run at high voltages -- at the peak torque of its current electromechanical motors.
Now, Meka is predominantly known for its series-elastic arms:
The obvious next step is to develop a pair of arms for this biped. If DARPA folks are listening... You should seriously consider funding this effort to give BDI's PetMan some competition!
Here are a pair of videos showing the new skin in action.
As you can see in the video, the skin is conformally attached to a Meka A2 arm and the 380 taxel positions are calibrated with respect to the robot (per a nice ROS rviz display). From the very simple tests, the skin was able to resolve a 1.1 gram almond, corresponding to a force resolution better than 10 milli-Newtons.
Meka isn't quite ready to release the technical specifications or details right now, but they are keen to tell us that a "product announcement is forthcoming." So, if you're interested in tactile robot skin for your mobile manipulator, perhaps you should give 'em a ring.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Meka Robotics is a Hizook.com sponsor -- so... I guess that means Hizook was compensated (in part) for writing this article. In fact, this is the inaugural "sponsor spotlight."
That said, we maintain the highest possible standards and only recommend products and initiatives that we (ourselves) would personally buy or recommend to close friends. In fact... as an alumni of the Healthcare Robotics Lab, I have personally used Meka's arms (atop the robot, Cody) and can attest to their awesomeness. [ I've also been told that the Healthcare Robotics Lab designs for EL-E and Cody were referenced during the design of the M1 mobile manipulation platform. So... my talented labmates (shout-out to Advait and Cressel!) and I had an impact on some of Meka's products. Cool! ]
If you'd like to learn more about what it means (or what it takes) to become a Hizook sponsor, go check this out! We're always looking for mutually-beneficial relationships.