A new research and development firm, Ghost Robotics, founded by PhD candidates out of the University of Pennsylvania just revealed a game-changing product. Ghost Minitaur is a dog-like robot that runs, climbs, and even opens doors. While other groups have already produced similar functional robots, this latest one is different — it’s completely gearless.
The patent-pending design, which uses conventional rotary electric motors, eliminates the gearbox altogether. Gearboxes are typically expensive and extremely fragile; common malfunctions include leaky seals, bearing failure, and electrical fluting.
CEO of Ghost Robotics, Jiren Parikh explained that by getting rid of the gears, the amount of equipment that stands between the robot and its environment is minimized, making the machine more reactive and more sensitive.
“The legs have enough power to jump and do flips, but can also sense contact with an egg without breaking it. If it had gears, it would be much slower and tasks like this would be problematic.”
While traditional robots struggle to move around rough terrain, the Ghost Minitaur can be used to transport loads to hazardous environments that are unsafe for humans. It can do this because its direct-drive legs are extremely agile and can actually “feel” the ground.
With its innovative sensory and mobile abilities, the Minitaur could have a number of practical applications, including military missions, exploration of hazardous environments, and search and rescue missions. Developers also believe that the technology used in the robot’s legs could be integrated into other types of systems for surgeries, home care, animal husbandry, food manufacturing, and more.
According to Parikh, the devices are “very low-cost to manufacture in volume.” However, Ghost Robotics has only produced the Minitaur in small batches. Each robot is currently selling for $10,000, but co-founder Gavin Kenneally hopes that production will be scaled up eventually, dropping costs to $1,500 per robot.