Ballu, Blimp Robot!

Today, let’s combine two of our favorite technologies, lighter than air craft and humanoid robots!

Sepehr Ghassemi of UCLA has done just this in his “Buoyancy Assisted Lightweight Legged Unit”, BALLU. The result is peculiar looking, and walks with a very strange, weightless gait.

This project is admirably impractical, but presents some interesting design ideas.  Actually, it is interesting precisely because it isn’t trying to be practical.

The basic idea is summed up in one crazy question:

“What if we could change the direction of gravity?”

For one thing, robots wouldn’t fall down as much, and for another they would need only the spindliest of legs.

Their video shows this robot’s gait is somewhat birdlike, and very much like humans walking under water or on the moon. Because of the buoyancy, the legs don’t have to hold it up or keep the balance, so they are simple and light.

The conference abstract reports that “All actuation, communication, and power components are built into the feet which make up the majority of the robot’s mass”, which is a neat engineering approach.

The video notes that this very light weight robot is not so good in the wind, though it is pretty robust if it falls (or if it were thrown out of an aircraft). They hint at future work with four legs, and maybe walking on water.


(And how could you not want to check out a conference called “Humanoids 2016”? :-))

  1. Sepehr Ghassemi and Dennis Hong, Feasibility Study of A Novel Robotic System BALLU: Buoyancy Assisted Lightweight Legged Unit, in Humanoids 2016. 2016: Cancun.


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