Ballbot: Balancing Mobile Robot on a single-wheel

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01 Oct, 2020

Invented by Ralph Hollis in 2004, this collective project by the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University is a 75 kilogram machine created to be tall, slender and person-sized with mechanical arms.

The video narrates that the Ballbot is designed to be a Mobile Robot that balances itself on one spherical wheel. Invented by Ralph Hollis in 2004, this collective project by the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University is a 75 kilogram machine created to be tall, slender and person-sized with mechanical arms. Despite its weight, it can still be easily pushed around and moved with little effort like a push of a finger.

The Ballbot moves in an agile omnidirectional motion by applying torque between the body and the ball. George Kantor elaborates that its wheel is driven by an orthogonal set of rollers working like an inverted mouse ball drive. It works by continuously accelerating the ball in the opposite direction of the lean angle, and reverses direction once the desired lean angle is achieved. Umashankar Nagarajan describes this movement as a set of dynamic constraints which control the dynamics of the ball and the body through motion mapping. Arm manipulation is balanced in a way that when the arm moves, the Ballbot leans in the opposite side that their effects cancel each other out.

The Ballbot has numerous potential applications in society such as interacting with people and operating in normal home and workplace environments. Michael Shomin explains that it can function in hospitals and elder care facilities by assisting people in a sit-to-stand maneuver. It can help in cooperative carrying by fetching and transporting heavy everyday objects. The balancing robot has various uses in Navigation, such as helping elderly people who rely on holding someone’s elbow for support and stability, and leading visually impaired people in an unfamiliar environment. It can even create maps of a building, and program specific location names to navigate and assist people who need to go to a certain room.

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