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ARTI: A Robust, Rolling Robot Chassis for Climbing Stairs
November 4, 2014
Robot Magazine

If you are looking for a robot chassis that can handle unpredictable terrain, consider ARTI from Transcend Robotics. Invented by retired entrepeneur Andrew Ferguson, the three-part chassis climbs up and down stairs -- and all sorts of other obstacles -- with ease. It doesn't matter whether the stairs are non-standard, uneven, or have a protruding bullnose: ARTI can climb them. Video of the bot even shows it climbing up lawn furniture.

Such a robust system is normally reserved for military and research robots, or those with similarly large budgets. ARTI, however, is designed with the masses in mind. If Transcend Robotics raises $25,000 on Kickstarter, the company will make the plans for ARTI available to everyone, so that roboticists around the world can adapt the chassis for their project.

"The whole point was to crete something of value that a huge number of people can use and give them access to the entire design," explains Ferguson.

What makes ARTI different from most chassis available to the general public, is its three articulated sections that work in "a symphony of motion," according to Ferguson. The connecting points between the sections include shocks, springs, and a geometry that limits forward and reverse motion -- so the bot doesn't fall backward, for example, while climbing the stairs. "It only tilts back at an 89 degree angle and then it stops," he says. "That’s crucial."

Ferguson admits that one day, bipedal robots will be advanced enough to easily traverse the human world -- including stairs. But at the moment, he says, the best bipedal bots can only handle a standard staircase. Even small irregularities in a staircase, which are so common in the real world, can cause the robot to fall over. Ferguson says he wants a home robot that can actually roam an entire house without human assistance, and he's tired of waiting for the bipedal bots to advance.

Ferguson hopes the maker community will fund his chassis, and roll with it.

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