As NASA continues its work exploring the final frontier, work is underway developing a planet traversing robot that looks like a space tumbleweed. The experimental robot is called the Super Ball Bot and it is being built by Boston Dynamics with the support of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program.
The Super Ball Bot is made from metals rods and cables that can extend or retract on command. This innovative design allows the Super Ball Bot to be very versatile. It can absorb impact on landing, squeeze into tight places, and traverse the surface of a foreign planet. The Super Ball Bot also has the additional advantage of being able to collapse to be stored in a very small space. That’s important because space shuttles need to be as efficient as possible when it comes to room and weight.
Super Ball Bot creator Adrian Agogino was inspired by a six-bar baby toy that was held together with wire. When the toy absorbed impact when landing on the ground Agogino had his ‘eureka’ moment. The Super Ball Bot follows a very similar design except the wires are able to extend and retract.
The latest version of the Super Ball Bot will be presented by creators Vytas SunSpiral and Adrian Agogino at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation 2015 in August, but one day this type of robot will be exploring the the face of foreign planets, and giving us information that will let us learn even more about the universe.