Scooter Runs Into A Wall

April 23, 1997

EVANSTON, Ill. --- You can grasp the top of "Scooter," a sturdy, three-wheeled robot, and push it around as you wish --- that is, until you run into an invisible wall. At that moment Scooter turns sharply, and runs along the wall instead.

You have now felt what researchers call a "virtual surface." The robot, a prototype of a new class of collaborative robots called "cobots," is programmed to refuse to go past a virtual surface.

Researchers from the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University demonstrated Scooter on Wednesday, April 23 at the 1997 International Conference on Robotics and Automation, at the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, N.M. Also on Wednesday, Discover Magazine announced in Washington that the "cobot" invention was named a finalist in its annual Awards for Technological Innovation. The research team was to make a technical presentation about Scooter at the conference on Thursday, April 24.

"Cobots are safe because they don't have motive power of their own," said co-inventor J. Edward Colgate, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the McCormick school. "They are intended to work with people, instead of replacing them."

The researchers are working with General Motors on a cobot that would help assembly line workers install instrument panels, which barely fit through the door opening. "The virtual surfaces will extend out of the cab door like an invisible funnel," said Michael Peshkin, cobot co-inventor and also an associate professor of mechanical engineering.

"Workers can maneuver the instrument panel down the middle of the funnel if they wish," Peshkin said, "but more likely they will prefer to push it up against a virtual surface and just slide it along into the cab."

When Scooter, the prototype cobot, runs into a virtual wall it doesn't crash. The wheels, under the control of a computer, simply redirect Scooter and its payload in a direction parallel to the wall.

The researchers are also developing an arm-like version of a cobot for computer-assisted surgery, which also requires cooperation between a human and a machine.

"You can think of a cobot as a physical interface for a person to collaborate with a computer," Colgate said.

Scooter was named as one of five finalists in the annual Discover Magazine awards, in the category of computer hardware. Altogether the editors of Discover selected 35 finalists from over 4,000 nominations worldwide. The finalists were announced by Discover President and Editor in Chief Paul Hoffman at the Smithsonian Museum.

-30-

CONTACT: J.E Colgate at 847 491-4264 or by e-mail at colgate@nwu.edu

Northwestern University

Related Engineering Articles from Brightsurf:

Re-engineering antibodies for COVID-19
Catholic University of America researcher uses 'in silico' analysis to fast-track passive immunity

Next frontier in bacterial engineering
A new technique overcomes a serious hurdle in the field of bacterial design and engineering.

COVID-19 and the role of tissue engineering
Tissue engineering has a unique set of tools and technologies for developing preventive strategies, diagnostics, and treatments that can play an important role during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineering the meniscus
Damage to the meniscus is common, but there remains an unmet need for improved restorative therapies that can overcome poor healing in the avascular regions.

Artificially engineering the intestine
Short bowel syndrome is a debilitating condition with few treatment options, and these treatments have limited efficacy.

Reverse engineering the fireworks of life
An interdisciplinary team of Princeton researchers has successfully reverse engineered the components and sequence of events that lead to microtubule branching.

New method for engineering metabolic pathways
Two approaches provide a faster way to create enzymes and analyze their reactions, leading to the design of more complex molecules.

Engineering for high-speed devices
A research team from the University of Delaware has developed cutting-edge technology for photonics devices that could enable faster communications between phones and computers.

Breakthrough in blood vessel engineering
Growing functional blood vessel networks is no easy task. Previously, other groups have made networks that span millimeters in size.

Next-gen batteries possible with new engineering approach
Dramatically longer-lasting, faster-charging and safer lithium metal batteries may be possible, according to Penn State research, recently published in Nature Energy.

Read More: Engineering News and Engineering Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.