RHex Slips on Granular Media

RHex is one of very few legged robots being used for realworld rough-terrain locomotion applications. From its early days, RHex has been shown to locomote successfully over obstacles higher than its own hip height [1], and more recently, on sand [2] and sand dunes [3], [4] (see Figure 1). The commercial version of RHex made by Boston Dynamics has been demonstrated in a variety of difficult, natural terrains such as branches, culverts, and rocks, and has been shipped to Afghanistan, ostensibly for use in mine clearing in sandy environments [5]. Here, we discuss recent qualitative observations of an updated research version of RHex [6] slipping at the toes on two main types of difficult terrain: sand dunes and rubble piles. No lumped parameter (finite dimensional) formal model nor even a satisfactory computational model of RHexs locomotion on sand dunes or rubble piles currently exists. We briefly review the extent to which available physical theories describe legged locomotion on flat granular media and possible extensions to locomotion on sand dunes.