Document created: 12th December 1999
Last Modified: Thursday, 21-Jun-2012 14:04:07 BST
Icon saying Projects & Research

Click here for Shadow home pageClick here for Liberator pageClick here for Zephyrus pageClick here for Mine clearance pageClick here for Other projects page

These research projects are no longer active.

Page Index
Biomorphic Arm
First Step
Tiny Tim

Over the years The Shadow Robot Company has created numerous robotic projects. In this section we have selected a few examples of some of our previous work which exemplify some of the diversity of ideas created at Shadow. Some of these have been created for research purposes, others solutions for clients and some for sheer fun.

In all our projects created over the years there has been a process of evolution in our designs which has given us our own unique technologies. One case in point was the development of the Shadow Air Muscle, which could not have been achieved without the attempt to create an upright bipedal walking robot - where the muscle anatomy of man was followed closely in the execution of the walking design of the robot.

An understanding of human anatomy was also implemented by the Shadow Robot Company in the development of the Biomorphic Arm, mentioned below, which provides another example of using Shadow Air Muscle technology.


The projects listed here are diverse in subject matter - no particular criteria was specified for what was or was not included on this page. We have decided to only list a few projects and in time the current selection will change. Some of these projects are extensive enough to warrant entire pages for their descriptions, but alas, hard choices have to made and no doubt in time this will change with some projects becoming active again.

Biomorphic Arm - Project by Hugo Elias

This project was to develop a Biomorphic Arm with many degrees of freedom. The arm is unusual in that it includes a simulation of the shoulder.

The arm pictured on the left is an earlier version in a series of prototypes. A much later version is being currently developed for the DTi's Smart Award Hand/Arm Teleoperation of which at the moment we cannot give publicise too many details due to Patent applications.

When I joined the Shadow Robot Project, I was asked to investigate the possibility of making a humanoid arm with all the degrees of freedom a Human arm enjoys. When I began to think seriously about it I realised that it was a much more difficult problem that I had first thought. Next time you find yourself in front of a mirror, take a look at your own shoulder. It is a miracle of engineering.

It can shrug, move backwards/forwards, swing your arm back/fore/left/right and rotate your arm. That is a total of 5 degrees of freedom in just one joint. What is more amazing is that it can perform all these movements with impressive strength. The bones themselves are far more advanced than any attempt to engineer them using modern material technologies. The arm bone is held in place by three small bones which can move themselves around to let the arm move into many different positions.

This robot arm is an attempt to create a humanoid arm with the same degrees of freedom as a human arm. It is still a long way from its target in terms of its range of movement and strength.


The arm can be considered in three parts:

1. The shoulder

* shrug
* swing backwards and forwards
* swing outwards
* rotate
2. The Elbow

* Flex
* Rotate Forearm
3. The Forearm and Hand

* 2 degrees of wrist movement
* 3 joints on the Thumb
* 3 joints on the Fingers

The trickiest part, in terms of design, is the shoulder. With four separate joints, it becomes difficult to make one movement without affecting another. Often there is no space to mount muscles and they must be positioned away from the joint. This usually involves routing the tendons past other joints, which introduces more problems.
A fifth generation arm is currently being built. This will accept the new Greenhill hand currently being built for telepresence applications.

© Hugo Elias and The Shadow Robot Company 1999


Robots designed and built by David Buckley

David Buckley has designed and built numerous Robots over the years and presented here is a small selection. His robot designs include Liberator which has a page to itself on the site, but David has also built numerous small robots, 'electronic animals' (insect like), of which some have been award winning. His designs are often novel and always innovative.

Firstep robot - R Buckley

First Step, 1987

A Four Legged Walking Robot that uses 3-D pantograph arrangement to produce a gravitationally decoupled leg mechanism similar to that used by Shigeo Hirose,

'A Study of Design and Control of a Quadruped Walking Vehicle',
The International Journal of Robotics Research, Vol 3, No. 2, 1984.

The main idea behind First Step's construction is that the leg movements or gait of the robot means that the feet will move in a straight line with regard to 'x' 'y' and 'z' in relation to the main body
without the robot having to calculate the step and position of the legs through time. In other words the leg mechanisms themselves allow it to walk in a straight line without the need for onboard processing of leg positions. Therefore the mechanics themselves provide an elegant solution to achieve straight line walking.

Won a Silver medal at the 1988 Model Engineer Exhibition.

M23, 1982

A Small turtle robot, inspired from previous designs at M.I.T (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The robot is controlled over an infrared link, whereby it receives commands from the desktop. Sixteen control codes can be fed to the robot via infrared. However the robot does possess some electronics for movement: Diode Steering Logic. The octagonal shape of the robot allows it to turn on the spot in very tight corners. All eight sides of the robot have body panels that are touch plates (bump sensors). The small tower shown in the picture on the right, positioned at the rear of the robot is the infrared receiver.

Won a Bronze medal at the 1988 Model Engineer Exhibition.

MM3 robot - R Buckley

quester robor - R Buckley

Quester, 1981

This robot was designed for robotic competitions, specifically the Micromouse competitions which are held usually every year. The competition involves competing robots having to navigate a maze, using their own processing power, and the winner is the robot that can find its own way in to the centre of the maze in the quickest possible time. The robots entered into the race have to have sufficient processing power to map out the maze and realise where the centre is.

Quester uses vision to detect the walls of the maze and if this fails, uses segmented bump sensors to detect the walls by touch. Quester's on board processing uses layered behaviour architecture to arrive at intelligent decisions as to how to navigate the maze.

The robot was programmed directly in Hex via an Acorn computer into its on board 1 K RAM chip, which at the time made the robot fairly advanced. However Quester had problems being able to visually differentiate between the walls of the maze and the rest of the environment. This was because the colour values of the walls was not sufficiently different from the surrounding environment in the then current lighting conditions.

Simplhex, 1994

This 6 legged walking robot uses 12 model-control servos in order to control the legs and has an onboard control computer ('16F84pic' microchip) enabling it to walk whilst avoiding obstacles. A lot of its development took place at East London University Robotics department. The Robot has a tripod gait action. There are two feelers at the front of the robot that detect walls or surfaces allowing the robot to dynamically alter its direction upon detection.

Won a gold Medal at Robotix 1995.

Prowler, 1983

The first published design for an expandable micro robot vehicle. Controlled over an umbilical from an host computer. Published in Sinclair Projects Aug. and Dec. 1983. The tracked robot was a conversion from a model tank; so that enthusiasts could build their version of the robot with greater ease. The point of the project was to make it easy to understand and build so that others could follow the published plans and build their own. It is a basic programmable robot with bump sensors.


Tiny Tim, 1994

At the time it was built, Tiny Tim was probably the smallest robot ever built of its kind. It is quite remarkable when one considers the photograph opposite, seeing the one pound coin placed next to it. Despite its size Tiny Tim is a self contained robot with an onboard computer programmed in a high level language using a Stamp 1 chip. It has bump sensors and 5 layered behaviour control architecture for onboard processing. It posed considerable engineering problems in its construction: The chasis is in fact the printed circuit board of which the electronics are soldered to. Tiny Tim is capable of seeking light whilst avoiding obstacles. Its proportions are 3.8cm *4.8cm*3.3cm!

© David Buckley, Rufus Wood & The Shadow Robot Company

An image saying Millenium Products   Click here to goto Shadow Robot Company main website

©Copyright Shadow Project.

  An image saying Engineering Industries Association