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Posted: 03:35:24 PM, 07/11/2013

A wheel that flies, floats, rolls

? ?

Some say the person who invented the second wheel never got the credit he/she deserved. Who rides on a single wheel after all?

Researchers at The University of Tokyo's Department of Mechano-Informatics have proven that if you put your mind to it, you can make a single wheel do a lot for you. Their quadrocopter wheel performs the trifecta of motionflying, floating on water and rolling on land.

Called the Multi-field universal Wheel for Air-land (MUWA for sanity), it uses four variable-pitch propellers. Yes, unlike what you've seen until now, the propellers are not fixed. Their independent control includes the ability to change their pitch 20.

What can you do with that? Just watch the video below.

An IEEE Spectrum article gives some examples of what you might do with this ability: the vehicle can move around without always consuming energy flying; it can get through narrow gaps by rolling; and if you fix Kinect-like sensors and rotate MUWA around a point, you can build a 3D map of the surroundings.

The concept was presented recently in a paper titled, "MUWA: Multi-field Universal Wheel for Air-land Vehicle with Quad Variable-pitch Propellers," by Koji Kawasaki, Moju Zhao, Kei Okada, and Masayuki Inaba at IROS 2013 conference.

The next step, according to the researchers, is generating enough thrust in the while the wheel is in a vertical position so that it can roll on water and even fly with a vertical attitude.

What applications can you think of for this design?

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[Last update: 03:37:05 PM, 07/11/2013]
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