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Old 09-05-2002, 09:04 AM   #1
Join Date: Aug 2002
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Posts: 252
5 yr Member
Default More on the Gyrover (DS monowheel)

I love the possibilities of this design.

Perpetual Wheelie
Carnegie Mellon's Gyrover
Innovator: H. Benjamin Brown,

For the past several years,
people strolling around the
Carnegie Mellon campus have
delighted in watching a
hubcap-size wheel skip across
the quad. Nothing seems to stop
it. Downhill or up, the little
wheel keeps going. It hurdles
bumps, swerves around obstacles
(usually), and runs into things,
bouncing off harmlessly
(usually). Even when it falls on
its side, it manages to pick
itself up: it gyrates slowly and
wobbles around on its rim,
rising higher and higher until
it's upright again, like a coin
balanced on edge. Then it tilts,
turns, and scoots away. This
frisky wheel is, of course, a
radio-controlled robot. A
four-pound gyroscope concealed
inside spins at 12,000 rpm and
holds the wheel upright, whether
it's rolling or not. Two
internal motors drive it uphill
and tilt the gyro to make the
wheel turn, or even right itself
after falling.

This happens to be a serious
rover, but where did the idea
come from? "When I was a
teenager I worked in a gas
station," says Benjamin Brown,
Gyrover's inventor. "I rolled
tires outside and was impressed
that they didn't fall
over--there was this inherent
stability." Brown continued
similar recreations as a
mechanical engineer at Carnegie
Mellon's Robotics Institute,
going so far as to build a
gyroscopically stabilized
bicycle. Then the Japanese
construction firm Shimizu asked
him to come up with a new
concept for lunar exploration.
The jeeplike rover driven on the
moon by Apollo astronauts seemed
vulnerable to tipping; in such
low gravity the wheels bounced
crazily over bumps and ruts,
even at slow speeds. What could
be simpler and better, Brown
thought, than a robot shaped
like a tire, a unicycle
stabilized by a gyroscope? The
faster it went, the more stable
it would be.

Brown had the first Gyrover, a
steel bowl with a gyro and
controls from a model airplane,
running in two months. The
second version, he says, "had a
lot more engineering"--a fat
fabric tire, the gyro enclosed
in a vacuum. The latest version,
which contains a computer for
autonomous control, was
completed in April, though Brown
continues to tinker with the
controls. On the moon, he says,
a 30-foot inflatable model
"would just roll over large
obstacles." With cameras looking
out the sides and radar scanning
the ground, it would be ideal,
he thinks, for mapping and
surveying large areas. A more
conventional robot could creep
along behind, for claws-on
exploration or collecting
samples. "If you try to make
Gyrover an all-purpose robot,"
Brown says, "sort of with arms
sticking out, you lose the basic
beauty of the design."
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