Japanese Ministry of Self-Defense shows off a flying sphere robot (w/ video)

Jun 10, 2011 by Katie Gatto weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers working with the Japanese Ministry of Self-Defense have created what they claim is the worlds first completely spherical flying robot. The robot, which has roughly the same dimensions as a soccer ball, is able to travel at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, or hover in the general area of a stable spot such as a hallway.

If the robot is tumbled to the ground, or swatted by someone with wants to toy with it, the bot will roll to absorb the impact and prevent as much damage as possible. This same trick works on other surfaces, should the robot bounce into walls, fixtures on the walls or anyone who happens to be in the room. Though, at this stage the robot cannot apologize for this breach of etiquette, which in Japan is an important detail.

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Navigation for this robot is achieved with a single that gives the device thrust. The device also features a set of eight wings that give the sphere its control and directionality. The cannot currently any extra weight, but it does have spaces where a camera or other could be mounted. The robots do not have autonomy protocols at this time, but that may happen in the future.

The robots cost about $1000 to produce per unit, which is extremely inexpensive when you consider that some robotics programs can cost thousands or even millions of dollars. If you want to find one on your own, you are going to have to take the trip to Japan and find the bots yourself.

Explore further: Germ-zapping robot could support war against Ebola (w/ Video)

More information: via IEEE Spectrum, Dvice

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User comments : 23

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ClevorTrever
3 / 5 (2) Jun 10, 2011
So far so remote controlled helicopter in a finger friendly housing.

The innovation?
gmurphy
4.6 / 5 (9) Jun 10, 2011
The innovation is that they put a cute Japanese chick next to it :), it's simple science!
TehDog
5 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2011
From the video this appears to be a very stable, nimble and robust system. There's a brief bit in the middle which is a view from the onboard camera. I can see even this version used for various purposes, improve it so it's able to carry a .5 kilo payload and you have a platform able to carry a variety of sensors. Dunno about flight duration tho, that could be an issue.
Sonhouse
5 / 5 (4) Jun 10, 2011
From the video this appears to be a very stable, nimble and robust system. There's a brief bit in the middle which is a view from the onboard camera. I can see even this version used for various purposes, improve it so it's able to carry a .5 kilo payload and you have a platform able to carry a variety of sensors. Dunno about flight duration tho, that could be an issue.


Flight duration and payload capacity, those are THE issues.
One clear advantage of the spherical shape is keeping stuff from hitting the propellers. A regular remote control helicopter would crash if the rotors hit a tree branch, for instance. This machine protects itself.

That is a big advantage.
sender
1 / 5 (2) Jun 10, 2011
looks like it could be improved if the internal propeller assembly was housed on gimbals, allowing for rolling cages and better fuel efficiency to traverse terrain
grgfraiser
5 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2011
a kino?
Skepticus
1 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2011
I imagine the set of wings under the single propeller directs the thrust and counteracting the reaction torque on the chassis, the equivalence of the main rotor and tail rotor on a typical conventional helicopter in one structure. Brilliant.
wealthychef
4.4 / 5 (7) Jun 10, 2011
Not a spherical flying device. It's a flying device with a sphere around it.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (41) Jun 10, 2011
If they painted this helicopter blue and called it a "ZoBango Ball", then they would have a second new invention.

Having said that, a few of these or similar devices could have been very valuable at Japan's melting Nuclear Facilities.

The fact that none were used is, for whatever reason, a good good indication of a poor ability to innovate in a crisis among the Japanese people.
Jonseer
4.3 / 5 (16) Jun 10, 2011
The Japanese make tech that's friendly and fun, almost too cute for words, BUT

It takes American creativity to turn that seeming adorable flying ball into an unstoppable killing machine able to kill hundreds with a payload of frag bomblets; a set of fixed razor sharp blades, and a high wattage blue laser.

Using it's spin to aim the bomblets it would blow up as many humans as it can. When they ran out, it would turn to more personal methods, using the laser to first burn/blind those who didn't get blown up rendering them defenseless against the rapidly spinning ball of death as it slices and dices running enemy combatants.
jjoensuu
not rated yet Jun 11, 2011
It takes American creativity to turn that seeming adorable flying ball into an unstoppable killing machine able to kill hundreds with a payload of frag bomblets; a set of fixed razor sharp blades, and a high wattage blue laser.


haha, so true. But I thought the Americans were going to use huge amounts of small robotic spiders equipped with lasers.
Mahal_Kita
not rated yet Jun 11, 2011
The Japanese make tech that's friendly and fun, almost too cute for words, BUT

It takes American creativity to turn that seeming adorable flying ball into an unstoppable killing machine able to kill hundreds with a payload of frag bomblets; a set of fixed razor sharp blades, and a high wattage blue laser.

Using it's spin to aim the bomblets it would blow up as many humans as it can. When they ran out, it would turn to more personal methods, using the laser to first burn/blind those who didn't get blown up rendering them defenseless against the rapidly spinning ball of death as it slices and dices running enemy combatants.


Maim, kill, distroy.. Could you think of a somewhat more positive application once in a while? Or is that too unamerican..
Skepticus
4.3 / 5 (6) Jun 11, 2011
The Japanese make tech that's friendly and fun, almost too cute for words, BUT

It takes American creativity to turn that seeming adorable flying ball into an unstoppable killing machine able to kill hundreds with a payload of frag bomblets; a set of fixed razor sharp blades, and a high wattage blue laser.

Using it's spin to aim the bomblets it would blow up as many humans as it can. When they ran out, it would turn to more personal methods, using the laser to first burn/blind those who didn't get blown up rendering them defenseless against the rapidly spinning ball of death as it slices and dices running enemy combatants.


Maim, kill, distroy.. Could you think of a somewhat more positive application once in a while? Or is that too unamerican..

Why wondering? That's the democratic, civilized way. If you can't compete, convince or deceive someone else in other ways, just make the biggest clubs and gizmos and brain them into submission. Has always worked since 100000BC.
blazingspark
1 / 5 (1) Jun 11, 2011
Maim, kill, distroy.. Could you think of a somewhat more positive application once in a while? Or is that too unamerican..
Humanity is still to primal and savage to co-exist peacefully. Just try telling that to those 'anti-military' types, who act like a country will be fine without a military.
George_Rodart
1 / 5 (3) Jun 11, 2011
Can it fix a reactor meltdown?
meerling
not rated yet Jun 11, 2011
Looks like an old remote control vtol toy from a few years back painted black and with a ball shaped cage glued onto it.

Honestly, I see absolutely nothing new here. Go to toys r us and buy one on clearance, then glue on a ball shaped cage (cut it out of foam board) and spray paint it all black.

Also, since it was a remote control vtol toy with no apparent autonomy at all, I don't think it qualifies as a robot.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Jun 11, 2011
In this case, the saying: "Divide and Conquer" is a misnomer.
"Combine and Conquer". If only the researcher had known:

http://www.pcworl..._it.html

Even bicycles evolve. The spheres take the place of the Australian's framing. Why?

"Tipping over" becomes meaningless when the spheres' size is the the pilots' size. Offering protection as well.

There is no greater tragedy, when synergy between innovations is kept apart by Nations, pride and prejudice.
Vendicar_Decarian
0 / 5 (34) Jun 11, 2011
Re: above link.

Should turn corners on a dime, and be perfect in medium to stron g winds.
Wulfgar
5 / 5 (3) Jun 12, 2011
I see a new internet phenomenon starting here. Flying robot soccer balls chasing giggly Japanese women.
Judgeking
not rated yet Jun 12, 2011
Adorable! The robot is cool too.
Birger
not rated yet Jun 16, 2011
If I may concentrate on peaceful applications... Imagine burning buildings that are getting too unstable for firemen to go into without confirmation there actually are people trapped inside (such units would of course use sub-millimetre wawelengths to see through the smoke).

Inspection of pipelines and sewers? Minefield mapping in war -torn third-world countries? (I imagine using sensors that "smell" explosives, pointing out the mines to human mine clearers).
And if you use a cable for communication, you could even map caves that are so narrow cavers are unwilling to try explore them manually.
Fuel; If you could have a compact isotope "battery" and operate the robot in unpopulated environments there would not be much of a limit for endurance.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2011
"Humanity is still to primal and savage to co-exist peacefully. Just try telling that to those 'anti-military' types, who act like a country will be fine without a military." - Blazingspark

All Liechtensteiners are great actors.
Liechtenstein is fine.
Without a military.

All Liechtensteiners believe:
Humanity is still to primal and savage to co-exist peacefully.
Justsayin
1 / 5 (1) Jun 23, 2011
Once it achieves autonomous flight ,real time facial recognition and capable of carrying a few 38 caliber slugs it would be useful during wartime to swarm enemy held buildings.