Posted by bboyes
on December 22, 2005 at 8:27 AM PST
You've probably heard something about this already - a car with square wheels offset by 22.5 degrees, propelled by a spinning weight.
This blog on ZDNET provides links to video and a press release from Global Composites and Distributed Robotics , both in NY state. Here's a PDF press release . If you want a smoother ride, here's a video of an elliptical wheel version.
The inventor, Jason Winckler can be seen here with his frog Edna. This may be the same Jason Winclker who plays soccer for Tamarac Middle School.
It's an interesting idea, but can spinning a weight around really be more efficient than driving round wheels? The inventors suggest using other forces instead of gravity; perhaps in special applications (where such a force normal to the plane of motion is available) might be very effective. All I can think of right now is the "screen door in a submarine" - where the flow of water perpendicular to the screen would provide a huge force which is easily tapped. So there you have it - the basic concept for a novel submarine screen door cleaner robot. If you make a million from this idea, please send me a check.
Similar ideas have been around for a while: driving a square-wheel vehicle over a road composed of inverted catenaries, as seen here .
Steering such a vehicle is a bit complicated, since it easily interferes with the synchronization of the wheels.
And what easier way to experiment with your own version of this than with Legos(tm)!