Masaaki Kumagai, director of the Robot Development Engineering Lab at Japan's Tohoku Gakuin University, has developed a robot balancing on a ball. The robot, called BallIP, which is short for Ball Inverted Pendulum, is about half meter high, weighs 7.5 kg. It balances on a 3.6-kg, rubber-coated bowling ball using three omnidirectional wheels. The peculiar setup combined with the inherent instability of the inverted-pendulum setup gives the robot great maneuverability, allowing it to balance on the spot even when pushed, to immediately move in all directions without having to first turn a wheel-base, and to pirouette on the spot.
In a demonstration, Kumagai showed three BallIPs cooperating to carry a large wooden frame. In future work he plans on extending the capabilities of the robots to allow them to easily cooperate with humans for carrying and transporting heavy objects.