Introducing MorpHex, a Spherical Hexapod Robot
Imagine a robot shaped like a ball, which transforms into a walking six-legged contraption. That’s a description of MorpHex, a spherical hexapod robot that is the brainchild of Kare Halvorsen, a Norwegian engineer who is also known as Zenta.
The MorpHex's spherical form is the latest development in this ongoing robotics project. The sleek and beautiful MorpHex might look perfectly at home alongside EVE and her cohorts from the movie Wall-E.
In building the latest version of the MorpHex, Zenta has attached 12 curved polycarbonate panels. Six of the panels cover the upper half of the machine, creating a sort of dome—or perhaps you could call it a carapace. The other set of six panels are situated over the robotic legs, with a curved panel covering each limb. The effect, when the robot's legs are spread apart and it is crawling forward, is that of an iPod Age crustacean.
The six panels on the robot's upper body can hinge upward or downward — independently of one another — and thus take on different shapes while the MorpHex is in crawler mode. From above, the MorpHex can look like a simple dome, or a flower, or even a nuclear warning symbol.
When it is not walking around, the robot has the ability to curl its limbs together and, with the panels snugly nestled against each other, take on the efficient shape of a smooth-surfaced sphere — the better for packaging, perhaps?
Unfortunately, the MorpHex does not as yet have the ability to roll about on its own cognizance, or even by remote control. Such functionality may well be added to the robot in the future. Zenta has said that he would like the MorpHex to have the ability to roll freely in any direction, like a ball.
What is the MorpHex for, anyway? Right now, the project might not be rich in practical applications, but its future iterations may be put to use in housework, military service, or even planetary exploration. Whatever happens, we can still admire the sheer ingenuity of the engineering behind the MorpHex robot.
It is quite amusing to learn that Zenta used a globe purchased from Toys 'R' Us to form the shell of the robot. He hacked the globe into 12 pieces and combined them with 25 servos, a circuit board, an XBee radio, a battery pack, and a servo speed regulator. We can all be inspired by one man's vision to build a spherical hexapod robot with morphing capabilities.