Shuffling, Jumping, Flying Robots Get Around in New Ways
Poor C-3PO and R2D2, puttering around the desert with their inarticulate legs and tiny little wheels . If only they had some of the robotic agility of a new crop of bots that made their debuts in the past week. Rather than progressing with the plodding gait of Asimo, these robots jump, climb, crawl, roll, shuffle and even fly. Oh, and one even ran a ultramarathon. Let's see Gort haul like that.
In the realm of robots with a little extra spring in their step, Cornell's Robot Ranger and Osaka Electro-Communication University's (OECU) unnamed bipedal android both showed off breakthroughs in automated locomotion . The Robot Ranger, which already held long-distance race records, blew the competition out of the water by running a 40.5 mile ultramarathon in 30 hours, 49 minutes and two seconds. Even more impressive, it did so without recharging, as opposed to the competitors in February's robot marathon, held in Osaka, Japan, which required periodic refueling.
OECU's robot can't quite keep up with the Robot Ranger on a straightaway, but it makes far tighter turns. Tight cornering had lingered as a conspicuous problem for bipedal robots, which OECU solved by having their robot shuffle rather than step. As you can see in the video up top, via Engadget, the shuffle-bot can shift its weight to one point or another, allowing it to pivot like a ballroom dancer. Well, maybe not that gracefully, but OECU's robot still comes closer to pirouetting than any other droid.
Not all robots are content to keep both feet on the ground, though. According to IEEE Spectrum, researchers at Notre Dame University and Ohio State University have crafted a springy bipedal bot with enough ups to make it the Blake Griffin of bipedal androids. Named "KURMET," the jumpy machine can spring over obstacles, landing with grace on its tennis ball-like feet. Check out the below video to see KURMET in action.
Similarly, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and Northwestern University have designed a robot that can shimmy up and around buildings in the same manner as parkour performers. This ParkourBot, as the researchers dubbed it, comes in a less human-like form than some of the other robots mentioned earlier, but that doesn't make its climbing ability, on display in the video below from IEEE Spectrum, any less impressive.
But why jump when you can simply fly? And why walk when you can roll? That kind of thinking led University of Minnesota researchers to build their as yet unnamed robot that rolls as a cylinder, but quickly converts in to a helicopter to fly around any difficult terrain. According to IEEE Spectrum, which provided the below video, creating a robot with two totally different means of getting around actually proved easier than designing one locomotion system that can conquer all obstacles.
Looks like running away during the robot apocalypse just got a whole lot tougher.