Mechanical engineer Péter Fankhauser is leading a large team of student engineers and designers at the Swiss federal institute of technology in Zurich who are building a robot that balances and drives on a single sphere. Other roboticists have explored this idea, of stabilizing a robot on a ball, but what Fankhauser and his fellow students hoped to do was make it dance. “Adding dynamics was definitely one of our goals,” he says.
Working with researchers including Michael Neunert and Thomas Kammermann, the team has produced Rezero, a ballbot prototype that can slalom around, resist toppling up to 17 degrees off vertical, and inspire myriad uses. Designed for high acceleration, it moves in an organic and even elegant way. Fankhauser has started graduate studies in mechanical engineering this fall with a focus on robotics, control and construction.
He says of Rezero: "He wants to demonstrate what he can do, as if he was saying, ‘Backwards, forwards. I can do it all. Look at me!'"