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DARPA-developed suspension makes a smooth ride for robots

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A new advanced suspension system from DARPA lets robots drive over bumpy terrain without much difficulty.

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DARPA iRobot suspension
DARPA iRobot suspension

The Department of Research and Defense has unveiled a new advanced suspension system that lets robots tread over bumpy terrain without much hassle. In a demonstration video, DARPA outfitted a modified iRobot 510 PackBot with the new system and tested its mobility while the suspension was both on and off. Without it, the bot appeared to have a difficult time getting over minor obstacles like small bits of wood and gravel. But with the suspension switched on the ride was nice and smooth — even when rocks were tossed into the bot's treads. Right now the PackBot is used for a number of applications, including bomb disposal and surveillance, and the new suspension could simply make those jobs easier by making it more maneuverable. It was developed as part of DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program, which also brought us the cheetah robot that recently broke the land speed record for bots with legs.