Intel Hexapod Robot Spider!

12 February 2010 7,290 views 4 Comments

Kids these days.  You never know what they’re going to come up with next, but you can bet they’ll post whatever it is on YouTube.  In my day we made videos with cameras the size of Volkswagens, walking uphill both ways in the snow talking on 12″ cellphones that took D batteries.  We certainly didn’t sit around building robots out of Intel processors and spare parts.  But this is the second decade of the new millennium, and that is why it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Matt Bunting, an electrical engineering major at the University of Arizona, went and built a six-legged robot for an assignment in his cognitive robotics class.  The thing – it’s apparently called a hexapod – looks and moves exactly like a spider, except that it only has six legs and doesn’t eat flies.

Image courtesy mddailyrecord.com

Bunting used a 3D printer to fabricate some of the plastic components for the hexapod, which allowed him to incorporate more complicated geometries into his design.  Thin layers of plastic are layered on top of each other by the printer to build up the required pieces.  In addition to shapely plastic legs, the hexapod has an Intel Atom processor for a brain and a Logitech webcam for eyes, which it uses to teach itself to walk each time it is activated.  As the robot experiments with movement, the webcam takes pictures from each position.  The hexapod is programmed to compare specific features in the various images in order to understand how it is moving itself.  Motion in a forward direction is rewarded and reinforced until the hexapod has pieced together enough information about its environment and its own capabilities to start to walk.  If the robot were to be damaged while crossing rough terrain on Mars or during a fight with some vicious alley cats, it would be able to learn how to walk on five legs.  It has an ability to stay balanced and stable in uneven surroundings.  I can imagine a hexapod or two being used under difficult or dangerous circumstances during construction, and I can also imagine an army of hexapods taking over planet Earth and making humans their slaves.

Intel was understandably delighted to find its Atom processor had made a walking spider robot possible, and has asked Bunting to build two hexapod robots for promotions at trade shows and other engineering meetings. The company plans to demo the robot at six events in February and March (Brown). You can follow Matt Bunting and Stewart Christie of Intel on twitter (@blegas78 and @intel_stewart, respectively) to find out more about the hexapod as it continues to develop.  I will leave you with this YouTube video of the robot moving around.  For more video, become a fan of the ARCHITERIALS facebook page, where I’ve provided a link to a documentary produced by Intel in which Bunting explains how the robot was created and what it can do.

UA RNSL Intel Hexapod: 3D Balance Gestures


This robot fits in the Fire and Wood categories because of how it works and the materials out of which it was made.  I think these kinds of robots will have an impact on how we construct buildings in the future.


Brown, Pete. “Matt Bunting’s Hexapod Robot Hits the Road.”  Arizona Engineer_online 01/25/10.  Accesse 02/12/10.  URL.

Ross, Otto.  “Student Builds Spider Robot from Spare Parts (w/video).” Associated Press via Physorg.com 02/09/10.  Accessed 02/12/10.  URL.

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  • Sam said:

    Maybe we can have an army of little digger-bots like this with a taste for trash being unleashed on our landfills to reclaim valuable materials one tiny munch at a time. Different varieties could have drives for different materials and adaptations for how to sense and extract them.

  • Matt Bunting said:

    Very nice article!

  • Brian said:

    Enjoyed this post! This little robo-guy reminds me of this other very cool robot/machine/helicopter.

  • Stewart Christie said:

    Thanks for the interest. The 3D printer piece was what piqued my interest, I’ve always wanted to have one at home. The fact that it has an Intel Processor running it is an added bonus, and allows me to justify the engagement with Matt. FYI if anyone is interested in playing with this (and I do mean play), I’ll be taking a robot or two to Nuremburg in March for the Embedded World Conference, and then onto the sigCSE 2010 conference in Milwaukee. If you come by the Intel Booth at either of these conferences, and mention Architerials, or any of the other posts about the robot, I will give you the PS3 controller, and you can see how much fun this little critter is.

    Stewart Christie
    @intel_stewart on twitter.

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