NASA’s Next Rover Could Be a Squishy Robot Ball

By: | January 7th, 2014

Image © NASA

In order to prevent potential issues such as wheels getting stuck on rocks, stop spinning, losing traction, or not being able to handle difficult terrain, NASA has taken a different approach in robot design to explore planets.

The tensegrity ball robot is designed like a  jumble of tent poles, which provides a higher level of maneuverability and adaption on a planet’s surface. Flexible cables and rods make up the tensegrity robot and are attached to motors which can readily change the tension and length of the cables. The ball can roll, survive hard landings, crash into rocks, all while taking on zero damage.

The versatility of the new tensegrity ball robot design is superior to modern rovers, but the challenge lies in the unpredictability of the ball as it moves along the surfaces of different planets.

Rovers were designed to roll along for specific times, stop, and rotate, whereas the tensegrity ball may have random movements as it rolls, bounces, tumbles, and flips over rocks. The tensegrity ball robot is still in its prototype phase but you can check out its potential in the video below:

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