History of the Skippy Project

The Skippy project began in 2010 when Morteza joined the ANU as a PhD student, and Roy spent a 1-month sabbatical at ISIR in Paris, courtesy of Vincent Hayward.  Morteza provided the energy and enthusiasm to get things going, while Roy's sabbatical gave him the chance to figure out how balancing really works, viewing it as a physical process rather than an exercise in control theory.  Over the next four years, Morteza implemented planar balancing, both on a sharp point and on a rolling contact; single hops beginning and ending in a balanced configuration; and the first example of bend-swivel balance control in 3D.

That's an impressive amount of progress for a single PhD, but it was all done in simulation.  The real challenge was to make a physical robot that could do all this stuff, and that became possible when Roy joined IIT in 2014.  IIT has all the necessary resources and expertise to create world-class robotic devices, and it is a perfect place to create Skippy.

The next step forward came when Sep Driessen joined the project in 2015.  Sep is an expert mechanical designer, and it is largely thanks to him that Skippy is starting to take shape.  He has already designed and built the mechanics of Tippy, which is the balancing-only precursor to Skippy; and we expect Tippy to start demonstrating its balancing abilities by mid 2017.  Meanwhile, Roy has been steadily improving the performance of his balance control systems, so that they can now produce complex balancing manoeuvres at the level of speed and accuracy needed by Skippy.

However, Skippy is a very ambitious robot, and two people are not really enough.  So two more have now joined the team: Antony Gkikakis in late 2016 and Bajwa Singh in early 2017.  With their help, we hope to have Tippy working soon, to start designing Skippy in mid 2017, and to start building it in late 2017, so that Skippy can make its debut some time in 2018.