Tencent Robotics showcases somersaulting wheeled robot with a tail

Introducing Ollie from Tencent Robotics doing the rollie polie olie

Ollie the Wheeled Robot was revealed by Tencent on June 3 at the 2021 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Xi'an, China. The creation is Tencent’s first bipedal robot that uses wheels instead of feet.

Capable of incredible feats of agility, including 360° aerial summersaults, this robot was introduced as a 'novel wheel-legged robot” by Tencent.

Ollie Wheeled Robot

Ollie is not what you expect when someone talks about cutting-edge robotics. It looks very simple from the outside with a rectangular body and two legs, consisting of powered wheels at the end of two articulating limbs.

However, Ollie hides a secret. Under the body between its two legs is another leg, also with a powered wheel. Ollie’s makers got the idea for this third by modeling it after animals' tails.

Most of the time, this “tail” is tucked under the body. However, it can be deployed to help provide more balance and stability and enable Ollie to pull off some fantastic feats.

As part of a demonstration video, Ollie showed off some amazing capabilities:

  • Climbing stairs and steeply sloped terrain
  • Smoothly traversing a wrecking ball
  • Jump through the air with a 360° flip between two platforms

Tencent also claims that ollie can hop 16 inches horizontally and 24 inches vertically.

Inside Ollie

The demonstration video didn’t contain any information on the interior technology of Ollie. However, a paper detailing its development has been submitted to the IEEE as part of the conference.

Ollie’s two-pronged legs can lengthen or shorten, so the robot's body moves up and down. If the demonstration video is to be believed, Ollie is capable of highly agile movement with rapid acceleration, sharp turning, on-the-spot swiveling, and even jumping between platforms.

What’s more, it features built-in trajectory planning capabilities so that Ollie can autonomously plan its approach when dealing with obstacles. 

However, Ollie’s ingenious “tail” is the real show-stopper. Not only can it be used as a third wheel, but it can be flicked out to enable aerial acrobatics and used for balance. For example, Ollie will use it as a third wheel to carry heavy loads.

Ollie can also be outfitted with special, removable attachments like a robotic arm to lift and carry objects.

Perhaps the most exciting feature of this robot is that its creators came up with a new and unique balance control technique using the tail. It will be interesting to see how this technique can be applied to other robotic creations in the future.

Here is another super-mobile robot with wheels called Swiss-Mile.

Ollie for helping humans?

The demonstration video of Ollie doesn’t give much to go on in terms of use cases, but it’s not too hard to guess.

First of all, its ability to balance and the possibility of adding attachments opens up many doors. Tencent showcased its ability to take a cup of coffee with this arm attachment and deliver it to a person sitting across the room.

Aside from cafes, this ability will also allow it to transport and deliver items in hazardous environments, like a construction site or warehouse.

However, Ollie’s immediate and perhaps most important use case is to show off the effectiveness of the new balance control mechanism developed by Tencent Robotics. The potential applications for this in future robotics projects are nearly limitless.

Who is Tencent Robotics?

Tencent is a China-based technology and multimedia conglomerate, perhaps best known for its video games. However, the company has expanded into nearly all forms of digital technology, including music, streaming, film & cinema, utilities, and even healthcare.

Robotics X is a branch of the company founded in 2018 dedicated to researching and applying cutting-edge robotics technologies.

Ollie the wheeled robot is not the company’s first creation. They’ve also designed a multi-modal robot dog called Max that can reach speeds of 25 km/h.

How about a self-balancing motorcycle?


The Mech dreams are coming true...

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