The Robotics Institute
RI | Seminar | February 28

Robotics Institute Seminar, February 28
Time and Place | Seminar Abstract | Speaker Biography | Speaker Appointments

TerminatorBot: A Miniature Robot for Search-and-Rescue and Exploration

Richard Voyles

University of Minnesota

Time and Place

1305 Newell-Simon Hall
Refreshments 3:15 pm
Talk 3:30 pm


As part of a massively distributed heterogeneous system, TerminatorBot, a novel, centimeter-scale crawling robot, is being developed to address niche applications in surveillance, search-and-rescue, and exploration. Rolling locomotion is easy to construct and relatively power efficient, but as rubble density increases, it becomes impractical. As robots get smaller, more things look like rubble, impeding locomotion. Limbed robots, on the other hand, can locomote over rougher terrain, but complexity is drastically increased and, unless energy storage and recovery is employed, are much less efficient. The TerminatorBot has two articulated arms, which comprise a dual-use mechanism for manipulation and locomotion. The arms can stow inside the cylindrical body for ballistic deployment or protected transport. The intended applications require a small, rugged, and lightweight robot, hence the desire for dual-use. TerminatorBot's unique mechanism provides mobility and fine manipulation on a scale that is currently unavailable.

I will describe the robot mechanism as well as the gaits that it uses to locomote. Because the robot is statically balanced, it has to pick itself up off the ground, drag itself forward, and then drop back to the ground. In the presence of visual servoing, these loping motions provide information about terrain conditions beneath the robot's limbs. We use clustering of Fourier components in time to categorize terrain characteristics.

Speaker Biography

Dr. Voyles received the B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University in 1983, the M.S. in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University in 1989, and the Ph.D. in Robotics from the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in 1997. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota and a Senior Member of the IEEE.

Dr. Voyles' industrial experience includes three years with IBM, where he was a manufacturing/test engineer working on automation projects, and one and one-half years with Intergrated Systems, Inc., where he was a research scientist working on contracted applications of real-time software. Dr. Voyles founded one company, Mark V Automation Corp. (formerly Trident Robotics and Research, Inc.), and co-founded another, both to address issues in real-time control hardware and software. He also spent one year at Avanti Optics Corp., a photonics manufacturing technology start-up developing high-precision, high-speed, processes for sub-micron assembly.

Dr. Voyles' research interests are in the areas of robotics and artificial intelligence. Specifically, he is interested in the coordination of teams of robotic agents for common goals where resource constraints play an important role. He is also interested in mobile manipulation, programming robots by human demonstration, and agent-to-agent skill transfer. His interests in computer vision include extracting 3-D models of objects from a moving camera. Dr. Voyles also has expertise in sensors and sensor calibration, particularly haptic and force sensors.

Speaker Appointments

For appointments, please contact John Dolan (

The Robotics Institute is part of the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.