Right now, the New Economic Summit (NEST) 2016 Conference is going on in Tokyo, Japan. One of the keynote speakers is Andy Rubin. Rubin was in charge of Google's robotics program in 2013, when the company (now Alphabet) acquired a fistful of some of the most capable and interesting robotics companies in the world. One of those companies was SCHAFT, which originated at the JSK Robotics Laboratory at the University of Tokyo and is best known for winning the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials by an absurd amount. We haven't heard anything at all from SCHAFT over the past three years, and as far as we know, they're still part of Google.
There's a new bot in town (Tokyo, specifically), and while it might not be as cute as Nao, as creepy as Spot and BigDog or as anthropomorphic as Atlas, it might be more practical than all of them. It walks on two legs, but not like a man, or even a bear. This one, designed by Alphabet-owned Schaft Inc., has its own uniquely robotic form of locomotion. A video then played showing robots like the one on stage, but different -- but all with a few things in common. Most important has to be the walking system.
Looking a little like an under-dressed R2-D2, the bipedal robot was unveiled by Schaft - owned by Google's parent company Alphabet - at the recent New Economic Summit in Tokyo. Alphabet-owned Japanese robotics firm Schaft unveiled its new two-legged robot in Tokyo on Friday. A video at the conference demonstrated the robot's capabilities (still pictured) Mimicking the complex movements involved in human motion has long-been a challenge for bipedal robotics experts, owing to the countless minor adjustments we make as we walk. The robot can also be seen ascending and descending sets of stairs without assistance. The bipedal prototype (pictured) can reportedly carry 60kg (132 lb) of weight, and is'aimed at helping society by helping to carry heavy loads The unnamed robot can self-stabilise on uneven surfaces, as demonstrated by stepping on a pole in a video.
Google parent Alphabet is shutting down its SCHAFT robotics unit after failing to find a buyer. Home to the company's giant bipedal bots designed to act as first responders in emergencies, the secretive division was supposed to go to Softbank as part of its Boston Dynamics buyout (another Google robotics venture). But that deal apparently broke down because "one or more [SCHAFT] employees" refused to join its new Japanese owner, reports Nikkei. As a result, Google says it was left with no option but to close its doors. It confirmed to TechCrunch that it's helping employees find new roles, most of which will be outside of Google and Alphabet.
These strange-looking, two-legged robots might be the predecessor of a machine that someday helps with chores around the home. The bipedal bot, which has yet to be named, was developed by Schaft, a Japanese robotics company that is part of X, the research lab owned by Alphabet (previously Google). It was revealed at an event in Japan hosted by Andy Rubin, who started Google's robotics project before leaving the company at the end of 2014 to create his own hardware incubator. A video shot by someone at the event shows the robot carrying a heavy-looking gym weight, slipping on a tube without falling over, and cleaning a set of stairs with a vacuum cleaner brush attachment on its feet. It can also be seen walking through a forest and along a rocky beach.