What looks like a tiny mechanical ostrich chasing after a car is actually a significant leap forward for robot-kind. The clever and simple two-legged robot, known as the Planar Elliptical Runner, was developed at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Ocala, Florida, to explore how mechanical design can be used to enable sophisticated legged locomotion. A video produced by the researchers shows the robot being tested in a number of situations, including on a treadmill and running behind and alongside a car with a helping hand from an engineer. In contrast to many other legged robots, this one doesn't use sensors and a computer to help balance itself. Instead, its mechanical design provides dynamic stability as it runs.
A robot dog has learned how to automatically recover after being assaulted by a human antagonist. The robot, named Jueying, is a quadruped - or a four-legged creature - that uses pre-learned skills to quickly respond and adapt to'unseen situations,' such as being pushed down or knocked over with a stick. The project began by training software that guided a virtual version of the robot dog and then expert skills were used in combination to perform complex behaviors – all of which were then uploaded to Jueying. A video shows the four-legged machine being pulled down, kicked and pushed over, but the AI-powered robot quickly rolls over and stands upright with no human intervention. A robot dog has learned how to automatically recover after being assaulted by a human antagonist.
In 2014, Google went on a robot spending spree, buying a handful of companies working on various technologies to help robots see, walk, and grasp objects. It seemed that the company was intent on building advanced new robots that might transform factories and even our homes. But last week Bloomberg reported that Google wants to sell the most striking of the companies it acquired, Boston Dynamics. The company's impressive two- and four-legged robots were apparently too far from being marketable. Google has not given up on robots, but appears to have decided to be more realistic about what it can achieve.
In this episode, Audrow Nash speaks with Monica Daley about learning from birds about legged locomotion. To do this, Daley analyzes the gaits of guineafowl in various experiments to understand the mechanical principles underlying gaits, such as energetic economy, mechanical limits, and how the birds avoid injury. She then tests her ideas about legged locomotion on legged robots with collaborators, including Jonathan Hurst from Oregon State University. Daley also speaks about her experience with interdisciplinary collaborations.
The uncanny valley teems with creepy humanoids--machines not quite perfect enough to be mistaken for people, but not quite comically robotic enough to be endearing. Lately, they've been joined by robo-animals, like the mechanical dog from Boston Dynamics that not-at-all-unsettlingly regains its balance if you kick it. Now, a new robot is scuttling into the uncanny valley. Hexa has six legs, looks like a bug, and moves with bizarre confidence. And it just might bring robot hacking to the masses.