If we want to build something where wheels do not come, the typical solution is to use rails. The greater mobility, however, comes with compromises: One example is tracked vehicles that can not drive as fast as a counterpart on wheels. The information published by the DARPA Soil Testing Technology Program (GXV-T) showed why it is not easy to switch to the tracks when we need them.
This ambitious goal of literally reinventing the wheel was tackled by Carnegie Mellon's National Robotics Engineering Center. They supplied the "Reconfigurable Wheel Track" (RWT), which can either roll like a wheel or drive on their tracks. An HMMWV serves as a corresponding demonstration chassis where two or all four of its wheels have been replaced by RWTs. The video (embedded below) shows how to move quickly from one mode to another while moving. An obviously desirable feature that looks difficult to implement. This may not be as dramatic as a walking robot that can curl up into a wheel, but it has the advantage of being faster for human vehicles.
The RWT is not the only terrain mobility project in this DARPA announcement area, but this particular idea is one that we would like to see scaled down to a 3D printable robot module crashed. And although our Hackaday Prize Robotics Module Challenge is already over, there are more challenges ahead. The other generic term for GXV-T is Crew Augmentation, which gives users a better idea of what's going on around them. The projects there could inspire what you can do with our next Human-Computer Interface Challenge, look at them!
[via The Drive]