Design of a terrain adaptive wheeled robot for human-orientated environments


Domestic and human-centered environments pose many practical challenges for service robots, especially those that must perform a diverse range of tasks. Existing robot morphologies have typically failed to incorporate the physical practicality and terrain adaptability needed to achieve high behavioral diversity in these spaces, as the most suitable configurations for certain tasks/behaviors are often highly unsuitable for others. This paper presents the development of a novel wheeled robot morphology that has been designed to possess the physical characteristics necessary to exploit human-centered environments, while also attaining the terrain adaptability to perform demanding locomotive tasks such as crevice crossing and step climbing. The design of a demonstrator embodiment is presented and discussed. Through simulation and real-world testing, the effectiveness of the prototype is evaluated. Finally, several design insights and lessons learned are discussed.

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    The ability of the proposed morphology to climb stairs has been theoretically validated. However, the dynamic and control requirements to achieve this were considered outside the scope of this work.


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The authors would like to thank Cian Donovan, Adam McCreevey, George Walsh and Mark Culleton for their efforts in developing and testing the robot presented in this work. We would also like to thank Iarnroid Eireann for allowing us to conduct testing on their trains.

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Correspondence to Conor McGinn.

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McGinn, C., Cullinan, M.F., Otubela, M. et al. Design of a terrain adaptive wheeled robot for human-orientated environments. Auton Robot 43, 63–78 (2019).

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  • Wheeled robot
  • Pneumatic artificial muscle
  • Service robot