Build your own best friend with $3,000 kit


A robotic dog that can dance, do flips and jump has been created by a team of students – and they are encouraging people to build their own.

The robo-dog senses when it is out of position and uses ‘virtual springs’ to pop upright with precision.

It has been created with the goal of being reproduced by anyone and the team has published their designs and blueprints online to encourage people to make their own robots.

Doggo’s creators wanted to share their joy so much they have made the plans, code and a supply list all freely available on GitHub, a specialist platform for developers to share computer code.

On the Stanford Doggo Project Github blog, the students describe themselves as undergraduate and graduate students in the Stanford Student Robotics club and part of the club’s ‘Extreme Mobility team’.

The students wrote: ‘We have been working on legged robots for the last year and a half.

‘Our latest robot, Stanford Doggo, is a shoebox-sized quadruped robot that can walk, trot, pronk, and jump around.’

Nathan Kau, a 20-year-old mechanical engineering major and lead for Extreme Mobility, said: ‘We had seen these other quadruped robots used in research, but they weren’t something that you could bring into your own lab and use for your own projects.

‘We wanted Stanford Doggo to be this open source robot that you could build yourself on a relatively small budget.’

Club members estimate the cost of Stanford Doggo at less than $3,000 (£2,364), a figure they say includes manufacturing and shipping costs and that and nearly all the components can be bought directly online.

The four legged robot has been designed to navigate different terrains with the help of motors that sense external forces and determine how much force and torque each leg should apply in response.

By pushing the limits of the robot’s software, Stanford Doggo increased its jumping range and is now able to jump three and a half feet (1.1m) off the ground, from two feet (0.61m) initially.

The smart motor is also the power behind the robot’s signature dance, says its creators.

Its motor recomputes at a speed of 8,000 times a second and is the essential powerhouse to the bouncy ‘boogie’ that can be performed with no springs.

Instead, the motors act like a system of virtual springs that rebound the robot into proper form whenever they sense it’s out of position.

‘This was when we realised that the robot was, in some respects, higher performing than other quadruped robots used in research, even though it was really low cost,’ added Mr Kau.

In order to make Stanford Doggo replicable for everyone else, the students built it from scratch.

This meant spending a lot of time researching easily attainable supplies and testing each part as they made it, without relying on simulations.

On their blog, the students wrote: ‘Many of the custom pieces are either 3D printed or waterjet, which means you will only have to do post-processing work.

‘For example, the primary links on each leg assembly (which are waterjet) require you to drill a hole for a set screw and then tap it.’

Natalie Ferrante, 19, a mechanical engineering student and member of Extreme Mobility, said: ‘It’s been about two years since we first had the idea to make a quadruped.

‘We’ve definitely made several prototypes before we actually started working on this iteration of the dog,’ said.

The Extreme Mobility is also collaborating with the Robotic Exploration Lab of Zachary Manchester, assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford, to test new control systems on a second Stanford Doggo.

It hopes that one day, such a robot would have wider applications and even be used to replace people in dangerous scenarios.

Patrick Slade, graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics, said: ‘We’re hoping to provide a baseline system that anyone could build.